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Word Watchby Anne H. Soukhanov
A selection of terms that have newly been coined, that have recently acquired new currency, or that have taken on new meanings, compiled by the executive editor of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition.
glass-tower people plural noun, the professional and managerial members of the U.S. upper middle class, who are college-educated, economically ascendant, and sophisticated to the extent that they understand and encourage change and cultural diversity. Also called the have-mores: "The middle class, long the balance wheel of American society, is beginning to fissure along fault lines of income, values and lifestyle. It is cleaving into the have-mores--'the glass-tower people,' Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls them--and the have-lesses" (Wall Street Journal).
Background: Glass-tower people--a term with obvious links to ivory tower--joins a small but growing lexicon of class conflict. Some established examples are cultural elites and angry white males. Less well known terms include unearned advantage (or unearned privilege), skin-color privilege, and male privilege, expressions used by Peggy McIntosh, a philosopher of education at Wellesley College, to point up the social stratification that race, sex, and class can create.
Background: Human bowling, virtual-reality games, and various inflatable activities--such as bungee runs and gladiator jousting, which are held on inflatable surfaces--are catching on as after-prom entertainment intended to keep students sober and off the roads. Many high school students are now spending more money on their after-prom parties than on the proms themselves, sometimes beginning fundraising activities as early as freshman year. Parties are often spiced up with prizes that have been donated by corporations or parents, such as small television sets, microwave ovens, and dorm refrigerators.
Background: This term was coined in association with the 1985-1991 television action drama MacGyver, whose protagonist used household products to jury-rig all manner of devices, including bombs (no complete recipe for which was aired). The term has appeared in print since at least 1992, in descriptions of numerous incidents, usually mailbox bombings, perpetrated by teenagers.
Background: After the Federal Bureau of Investigation's elite Special Surveillance Group swiftly removed Ames's trash can in the dark of night and substituted a look-alike, it retrieved a penciled draft of a note Ames had attached to secret documents he had recently turned over to the Russians. According to David Major, a retired FBI supervisory special agent and a former director of counterintelligence at the National Security Council, trash covers are used by private investigators and corporate sleuths engaged in "competitive intelligence" as well as by law-enforcement officers. A targeted person's refuse can yield the names of banks, the names and addresses of friends and acquaintances, and clues to an individual's personal behavior. Though the term has been a fixture in law-enforcement jargon for many years, it is rarely seen in general contexts.
Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; December 1995; "Word Watch"; Volume 276, No. 6; page 140.