Word Fugitives


It’s not that carma, carcissism, carmraderie, esprit de car, and autobond weren’t good ideas—they were. But they were such good ideas that hordes of people thought of each of them when asked, in May, to put a name to “that happy feeling of kinship one feels for the driver of a car of the same make and model as one’s own.”

A few individualistic readers’ thoughts turned to the particular rather than the general. Christian Ruch, of Hopkins, Minn., wrote, “The first term that came to mind for me was Civic pride, because I felt such a strong bond with anyone driving a Honda Civic hatchback during the more than 10 years I drove one.” Rachel Ward, of Rochester, N.Y., wrote, “I experience a feeling of Corollallinthistogether when I see people driving a Corolla S, as I do.” Kristina Graber, of Three Rivers, Calif., wrote, “As a hybrid-vehicle owner, I have come to recognize a certain smugness hybrid ownership brings. Owners of such vehicles share a feeling of hybris.”

A few other readers’ thoughts turned to Kurt Vonnegut, who died in April. Among them was Alan Feuer, of Brookline, Mass., who wrote, “In Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut coined granfalloon for the grand concept of a happenstance group. The special-case group of same-make purchasers might logically be a brandfalloon, and the nutty behavior it induces brandfalloonery, sometimes contracted to b’f’oonery.”

David McGarvey, of Lake Bluff, Ill., argued that the word sought should be “the opposite of fender bender: fender friender.” Julie Marshall, of Leona Valley, Calif., and Jean-Yves Thuret, of Paris, France, suggested vroommate; David Sergenian, of Los Angeles, jaloppelganger; Doug Slaten, of Fallbrook, Calif., me-toot; and Alexander Rolfe, of Newberg, Ore., vehic-hilarity.

Charles Slat, of Monroe, Mich., had actual information to share. He wrote, “Around the Motor City, cars are known as ‘Ford-badged’ or ‘GM-badged’ or ‘Chrysler-badged’ if they sport the logos or emblems of those automakers. Same-vehicle kinship is known as badger­aderie.” If that’s industry jargon, it’s good jargon—and besides, it’s fun to say. Slat takes top honors.

The other word sought in May was for “that guy (or girl) who, once he starts dating someone new, abandons all of his friends.” A complimentary term was not wanted, and none was received. According to a few readers, such a person might be called an affair-whether friend. Jacob Hibel, of State College, Pa., came up with disapparamour; Micheal Hickerson, of Erlanger, Ky., sexpatriate; Ralph Protsik, of Brookline, Mass., the deary departed; and Nancy Friedman, of Oakland, Calif., romantisocial. Eric Avery, of Gansevoort, N.Y., takes top honors for his coinage hiberdater.

Now Lee Westbrock, of Charleston, S.C., writes, “I’ve noticed that we are all getting better at rapidly turning off a cell phone that rings at an inappropriate moment. I’m in need of a word to describe this skill so that I can compliment my students.”

And David and Manisha Eigner, of Seoul, Korea, write, “We are looking for a word or phrase for when a married couple is having sex without birth control for the purpose of having a baby. Working on it doesn’t seem really accurate. And trying for a baby sounds as if you are at the game booth at a county fair. We would like for there to be a polite but meaningful phrase for this period in our lives.”

Send words that meet Lee Westbrock’s or David and Manisha Eigner’s needs to Word Fugitives, The Atlantic Monthly, P.O. Box 67375, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, or visit the Word Fugitives page on our Web site, at www.theatlantic.com/fugitives. Submissions must be received by October 31. Use the same addresses to submit word fugitives that you’d like The Atlantic’s help in finding. Letters become the property of Word Fugitives and may be edited.

Readers whose queries are published and those whose words are singled out for top honors will each receive, with our thanks, a selection of recent autographed books by Atlantic authors. The next installment’s correspondents will be sent The Atomic Bazaar, by William Langewiesche; God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, by Hanna Rosin; and my own Word Fugitives.

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Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff .theatlantic.com, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

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