m_topn picture
Atlantic Monthly Sidebar

Return to this issue's Table of Contents.

D E C E M B E R  1 9 9 9

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 U.S. general editor of The Encarta World English Dictionary 1999.

by Anne H. Soukhanov

LURD, also LUrD acronym, a living, unrelated donor: "It is believed to be the first transplant from a living donor with no prior relationship to the recipient. [The donor] is perhaps the most extreme example of an emerging trend in organ transplants. In transplantation's evolving lingo, he is a LURD -- a living, unrelated donor" (Washington Post).

BACKGROUND: Although most transplanted organs have historically come from cadavers, an increasing number are now being donated by living people. At first living donors were genetically matched members of the recipients' families. The donor pool was then expanded to admit genetically unrelated family members (for example, spouses or in-laws), giving rise as far back as 1976 to the term living, unrelated donor. The pool was further enlarged to encompass emotionally related donors -- friends, neighbors, and colleagues of the recipients -- and finally to allow donation involving two strangers. The last is responsible for the current sense of the phrase living, unrelated donor (which evolved in medical literature around 1986) and for the acronym LURD. Another term that has grown out of changing transplant protocols is domino transplant, a procedure usually involving two living people and a cadaver. For example, because it is less complicated to transplant a heart and a lung as a unit than to transplant a lung on its own, a patient who needs a new lung might donate a healthy heart to another patient, receiving a heart and a lung from a cadaver in return.

Murder Board

murder board noun, slang, a rehearsal during which a politician or other public figure about to give a press conference is peppered with difficult questions by staff members playing the roles of journalists: "[Former White House press secretary Mike McCurry] told reporters: 'You have to be board certified' to be press secretary. 'You have to be murder board certified'" (Associated Press).

BACKGROUND: Print references to murder board in its journalistic sense date back at least to the early 1980s, but it has appeared infrequently. It surfaced most recently last fall, in connection with McCurry's resignation. The term originated in the military as early as 1944, where it was used for a selection, examination, or review board. Murder board is part of an argot that has been dubbed Federish, from "Federal" plus "gibberish" -- the lingua franca of the government, filled with compounds, acronyms, and code words that are generally meaningless to outsiders.

script kiddie noun, slang, an adolescent computer vandal who, lacking an understanding of code writing, copies pre-packaged virus code obtained on the Internet, often using the result to damage Web sites for the fun of it. Also called script kid; scripter. "Nobody can say for sure how large the hacking community has become or how much of it is made up of script kiddies. But no one doubts that the number of script kiddies is growing, to the annoyance of experienced hackers and security experts alike" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

BACKGROUND: Script kiddies are part of a group called crackers, who infiltrate and sometimes deface networks and Web sites; sites operated by the FBI, the Departments of Energy and the Interior, the U.S. Senate, and the White House were cracked last May. Because their knowledge is limited, script kiddies have not yet, so far as anyone knows, inflicted permanent damage. The software they use is called malware, for "malicious software."

wet leaves phenomenon noun, the attitude of some Japanese wives toward their recently retired husbands, who may spend most of their time at home, without anything much to do: "For some men, working [at a new job] is a better option than retiring because it's a way to avoid the so-called 'wet leaves' phenomenon: The feeling among wives that newly retired husbands are as pesky and hard to get rid of as fallen wet leaves." (Washington Post).

BACKGROUND: According to a Japanese politician quoted in the Post, "'the wet leaves' phenomenon is no small issue": divorce is on the rise among Japanese retirees. The term is but one indication that attitudes and practices relating to work and retirement are changing in Japan, in large part as a result of that country's economic problems over the past decade. Whereas in the past workers could look forward to a comfortable retirement in what was known as an extra life, many retirees are now turning to silver centers for placement in jobs totally different from their previous ones -- becoming, for example, farmers or store clerks -- in what is now called a second life.


Anne H. Soukhanov is the U.S. general editor of The Encarta World English Dictionary 1999.

Illustration by Michael C. Witte.

Copyright © 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; December 1999; Word Watch - 99.12; Volume 284, No. 6; page 132.