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Word Watch
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 ofThe American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition.

by Anne H. Soukhanov

crind noun, an automatic credit-card reader, as at a gasoline pump or other point of purchase: "I drive out of my way to find a station with crinds.... I can now rent a car, buy an airline ticket, even check in and out of a hotel with no human contact" (Damon Darlin, Forbes).
BACKGROUND: Also styled CRIND, this term (pronounced to rhyme with "pinned") began as an acronym for "card reader in dispenser," a device that was tested as early as 1989 by at least one nationwide gasoline distributor. The popularity of crinds attests to the growing impersonality of today's fast-paced society, in which such things as convenience, speed, and predictability in transactions have become top priorities.

guerrilla librarianship noun, the use of surreptitious measures by librarians determined to resist the large-scale "deaccessioning" of rarely used books: "A branch librarian ... sometimes goes around with a due-date stamp, furtively stamping into currency books that she feels are imperiled.... [Employees of the San Francisco Public Library] call it 'guerrilla librarianship'" (The New Yorker).
BACKGROUND: Guerrilla librarianship can also involve such tactics as transferring endangered books from one department to another and hiding books in lockers, to be reintroduced to the collection "when the danger has passed," as The New Yorker puts it. The term has so far generally been restricted to the controversy over the purge, or weeding, of deselected books in the new San Francisco Public Library (thousands of tomes have been relegated to landfills; thousands of others, however, are said to have been quietly saved through the methods described above). It may, however, gain wider currency if new libraries elsewhere are designed, as the San Francisco facility was, with generous space for computer terminals, meeting rooms, and art, but inadequate space for books.

medical mall noun, a complex of facilities that offers diagnostic services, primary patient care, outpatient surgery, and psychotherapy together under one roof, along with such amenities as banks, restaurants, and dry cleaners:"Can chest X-rays and cholesterol tests be sold like polo shirts and lingerie?The developers of medical malls think.... they can attract patients and managed-care contracts with one-stop shopping for medical services" (Wall Street Journal).
BACKGROUND: Medical malls are a giant leap beyond the urgicenter (or doc-in-a-box or McDoctor) -- a for-profit medical clinic in a business district or mall (discussed in this space in 1987). Like urgicenters, medical malls may proliferate:the concept appears to be catching on even with traditional hospitals, some of which have opened vast medical malls nearby. By the end of 1995 medical malls were operating in several states, including California, Missouri, Maryland, and Florida.



spange spange verb, slang, to panhandle for spare change: "'I don't spange much because I really don't like doing it. I eat out of trash cans a lot. Pizza. Hamburgers. Fries. Soda.... It's survival of the fittest. Those that aren't fit have to go home'" (young male living on the streets, quoted in The New York Times Magazine).
BACKGROUND: Spange is a slurred shorthand form -- an oral acronym, as it were -- of the question "Spare any change?" Like the expression traveler, used for a young drifter who rides the rails or hitchhikes from city to city, it comes from the argot of today's street punks. Some of those, ironically, are trustafarians -- rich or upper-middle-class youths living on the streets by choice. The term trustafarian, a blend of trust fund and Rastafarian, dates back to at least 1992 in British sources and reflects the dreadlocks hairstyles and neo-hippie, unkempt clothing affected by some of these youths.

sylvanshine noun, a bright white light that seems to emanate from certain kinds of dew-covered trees when a beam of light, as from a vehicle's headlights, strikes them:"Ever driven through a wooded area on a summer night and thought you saw snow-covered trees in the moonlight? You can 'fess up; you're not crazy. You simply saw sylvanshine" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
BACKGROUND: This phenomenon was named and explained by the Pennsylvania State University meteorologist Alistair B. Fraser in 1994, a decade after he first noticed it. Sylvanshine is a form of retroreflection -- the visual effect that makes highway markers, bicycle reflectors, and cats' eyes seem to shine in the dark. Blue spruce, arborvitae, rhododendron, hemlock, and juniper are all conducive to sylvanshine. Their leaves or needles are coated with wax, on which dewdrops bead; the drops become, in effect, lenses that concentrate and channel much of the light back toward its source rather than scattering it in other directions.

Illustration by J. C. Michael C. Witte


Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; April 1997; Word Watch; Volume 279, No. 4; page 124.

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