Word Watch

Here are a few of the words being tracked by the editors of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (Houghton Mifflin). A new word that exhibits sustained use may eventually make its way into a future edition of the dictionary. The information below represents preliminary research.

garage hoppingnoun, slang, burglaries perpetrated by teenagers who rove from neighborhood to neighborhood, stealing from suburban garages whatever is readily portable and marketable: “Authorities . . . fear . . . there will be even more ’garage hopping,' as the burglaries are called” (Washington Post).

BACKGROUND: Garage hopping —a spinoff of terms like barhopping and job-hopping—is most prevalent in late spring and summer, when teenagers have more free time. Garage hoppers work in various ways. Groups of teenagers may scope out neighborhoods, looking for unlocked garages. They may also check for unlocked cars in driveways, and, finding them, use the remote-control garagedoor openers inside to gain entry. Or they may cruise neighborhoods with the remote-control openers from their own garages, using them to open as many garage doors as possible —an alarmingly effective approach where old, less sophisticated systems are concerned. Garage hoppers may hit four or more garages in a day. Popular targets of theft include garden tools, expensive sunglasses, car radios, bicycles, beer, and stray cash.

Iraqi manicurenoun, slang, removal of a prisoner’s fingernails and often toenails by members of the Mukhabarat, the security police of Iraq, headed by Qusay Saddam Hussein, a son of the chief of state: “An ‘Iraqi manicure’ is customarily administered in the dungeons of mild-mannered Qusay’s security forces” (Vanity Fair).

BACKGROUND: In the “sanctions-era free market. or black market, that has thrived in Iraq since the Gulf War, food prices are as much as sixty times as high as normal, spare parts of all kinds are in acute demand, and opportunities are rife for anyone with access to import routes from Jordan, Syria, turkey, and Iran. Although they may focus on expensive luxuryitems, such as whiskey and fine clothing, smugglers also arrive home with rice, sugar, wheat, and other staples for the government’s warehouses. Their cooperation is said to be fostered by fears of an Iraqi manicure (or pedicure) should they decline. The commodities thus obtained enable the government to distribute some 1,300 calories’ worth of food per

person per day, and hence are vital to the continued stability of the regime. Iraqi manicure joins a host of other sinister geo-eponymous euphemisms, including Colombian roulette (the smugglers’ practice of ingesting small bags of cocaine before leaving one country and excreting them after arriving in another—a life-threatening proposition, because the bags sometimes break in transit), French connection, Italian football (a thrown bomb), Russian roulette, and Spanish windlass (a straitjacket for restraining a prisoner).

mudwalkingnoun, the sport of trekking across muddytidal flats, or wad den, on the North Sea coast of the Netherlands: “Over the past 25 years, m u dwalkingwadi open—has become a popular pastime in the northern province of Friesland. While the Swiss scale the Alps and the Norwegians crisscross their mountain ranges on skis, the Dutch are busy walking in the wad" (Washington Post).

BACKGROl Mi: MudwaIking, also dubbed horizontal mountain climbing, typically involves hiking some eight to ten miles from the mainland to one of several offshore islands, across the area left bare by the ebb tide. The terrain ranges from firm sand to knee-deep sludge to channels of seawater through which hikers must wade or swim. Guided tours are offered from July through September; these are restricted to 140 participants per outing and may be filled to capacity months in advance. The guides may identify local wildlife and demonstrate various mudwalking techniques, such as tiptoeing, “skating,” and simply raking long—and sinking—strides.

They must also shepherd their charges past quicksand pits and ensure that everyone vacates the flats before the tide turns. Why do mudwalkers do it? Enthusiasts cite the novelty of the sport, its challenge, and the opportunity it affords— rare in the near-antiseptic Netherlands—to indulge leftover childhood desires to playin the mud.

trawlernoun, a television viewer who uses a remote control to flip from broadcast to broadcast, sampling many programs but settling on few or none. Also called channel surfer. “Trawlers. One of the mostfeared new phenomena in broadcasting” (Columbia Journalism Review).

BACKGROUND: Viewers with remote controls can now trawl or surf through forty or more channels on commercial and cable networks, pausing only briefly, in an effort to avoid advertisements or boring shows. Their impatience poses obvious problems for marketers. It also has dismaying implications with respect to public awareness of social and policy issues: some question whether viewers accustomed to trawling for constant entertainment will be inclined to focus their attention on programs addressing such weighty matters as the economy, homelessness, violence, and health care.