Word Watch

Here are a few of the words being tracked by the editors of The American Heritage Dictionary, published by Houghton Mifflin. A new word that exhibits sustained use may eventually make its way into the dictionary. The information below represents the first stage of research, not the final product.

divorce jewelrynoun, wedding jewelry from a failed marriage chat is melted down by the owner and reworked into new pieces: “The Orange, Calif., jeweler dispenses goggles and blowtorches so clients can rid themselves of bittersweet memories by melting their jewels, ‘Some people get an emotional release by destroying a symbol of misery,’[the jeweler Ken Olson] says. The melted wedding rings or anniversary pins are remade into divorce jewelry” (USA Weekend).

BACKGROUND: Olson is the coiner of this new term, according to a 1989 article in the Chicago Tribune: ”‘It was a joke at first,’Ken Olson said. ‘Just in conversation. I recall a gal bringing in a bunch of stuff to me the first week we were open. She was getting a divorce, so I said, We’ll make a divorce ring for you. It was no pre-planned strategy.”Preplanned or not, the divorcejewelry idea has caught on: at least eight other jewelers in Orange County offer the same service now, though some do not allow their customers to take the jeweler’s torch in hand, for reasons of safety. Some divorce jewelry is an amalgam of multiple failed marriages. Clients seem to be motivated toward meltdown for economic as well as psychological reasons.

festival workplacenoun, a complex of offices combined with food markets, small restaurants, taverns, and specialty retail shops: “Catfish down [in Baton Rouge] was redeveloped as a ’festival workplace’ . . . . and is 90 percent leased” (Governing). BACKGROUND: Festival workplace is derived from the older term festival marketplace, which refers to something that can be found these days in virtually every self-respecting American city: a gallery of commercial establishments, often lodged in a group of renovated buildings or along a waterfront, intended to encourage visitors to dine, shop, or simply browse. The almost 700 citations for festival marketplace in our files attest both to the popularity of the thing itself and to the staying power of the term. According to a New York Times article last spring, James W. Rouse, the developer of Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Baltimore’s Harborplace, is “the father” of the festival marketplace.

lovemapnoun, the types of stimuli that sexually arouse a person and cause the person to fall in love or adopt a certain pattern of sexual behavior: “People’s lovemaps are pretty much set by the age of 8” (Psychology Today).

BACKGROUND: This word was coined by Dr. John Money, of Johns Hopkins University, a researcher who is also credited with coining the now familiar term gender identity. A lovemap “depicts an idealized lover, love scene, and a program of erotic activities” (The New York Times). Money, who discusses this subject in Vandalized Lovemaps, written with Dr. Margaret Lamacz and published this year by Prometheus Books, points out that if a young child is subjected to neglect, physical abuse, or incest, his or her lovemap may be “permanently distorted, with the result that [the child] develops sexual perversions, or, as they are known in today’s clinical language, ‘paraphilias”' (The Washington Times).

vognoun, the humid, polluted haze resulting from continuous volcanic eruptions and the venting of lava and noxious gases: “Peter Young, president of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, last week said the [ Kilauea] volcano and its vog. . .have been a ‘mixed blessing’ for the Big Island. ‘The positive benefits are that it is a draw for the visitor industry and provides recreational opportunities for residents. At the same time, environmentally it has had an impact on the sky and air. We can’t rely on waking up in the morning and seeing clear skies anymore,’ Young said" (Pacific Business News). BACKGROUND: We have more than 50 citations for vog, a blend of volcanic and fog or smog, the earliest taken from the August, 1984, issue of Life. Vog, thought to be mainly composed of sulfur dioxide oxidized into sulfates, obstructs the sun’s rays, produces acid rain, generates fly ash, and can be dangerous to health, especially in people already experiencing respiratory problems. In January of this year the Hawaii County Council formed the Hawaii County log Authority, a panel of medical and volcanic experts and government leaders convened to deal with the severe problems engendered by the continuous eruption of Kilauea, which has caused vog to spread over the islands as far as Honolulu. 150 miles from the site of the eruption.

white-coat hypertensionnoun, a transitory elevation in blood pressure thought to be caused by anxiety related to the presence of a physician or other health-care professional. Also called cuff hypertension, office hypertension. “You may be suffering ‘whitecoat hypertension.' That means your blood pressure goes up in the presence of your doctor” (Springfield, Mass., Union-News). “ Twentyone percent of 292 patients with untreated borderline hypertension . . . were found to have normal daytime ambulatory pressures. . . . These patients were defined as having ‘white coat’ hypertension" (Journal of the American Medical As sociation).

BACKGROUND: A review of the citations that we have accrued for this term from the medical literature suggests that the incidence of white-coat hypertension may vary according to a number of factors, including the gender, race, and status of the attending health-care professional. The article in JAMA also indicates that white-coat hypertension is more commonly seen in patients who are “female and younger, . . . weigh less, and [were] more recently diagnosed” than it is in other patients.