Word Watch

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition.

corporate anorexia, a company's loss of effectiveness due to excessive shrinkage through various cost-cutting measures: "'I don't know who first coined the term "corporate anorexia ," but it is a danger,' says Jim Stanford, president of . . . a Calgary-based oil and gas giant that has gone through numerous downsizings and restructurings" (Wall Street Journal ).

Background: Corporate anorexia joins numerous other diet-related business idioms, such as Slimfast budgeting , trimming the fat , corporate bloat , and lean and mean . Associated with it are the terms survivor syndrome and ghost worker . Sufferers of survivor syndrome are overworked staff members remaining after a layoff, who simply become time-servers. Ghost workers are previously fired employees with critical insights into usually technical operations, who are rehired by their former companies as consultants to perform specialized tasks and solve complex problems.

dwell time, the period spent by airline passengers in airports during flight delays: "[A] growing national problem . . . [is] time to kill at the airport. Congestion has lengthened 'dwell time' about 5% a year in the 1990s. That leaves the typical domestic traveler warming an airport seat for 59 minutes because of flight delays, the usual connection problems and regular layover time" (Wall Street Journal ).

Background: Dwell time has generated another problem: gate-lock , the tendency of many passengers to homestead in departure lounges during flight delays, unwilling to leave the area for fear of missing their flight. To alleviate the burden of dwell time and to reduce gate-lock , some airports have installed putting greens, meditation rooms, and massage-therapy facilities near departure areas. The sense of dwell in this compound can be traced retrogressively through the word's etymology. The current meaning of dwell , "to make one's home in a place," derives from the word's 13th-century meaning, "to linger." This in turn developed from meanings in Old English: "to lead astray; to confuse" and "to hinder; to delay."

restorative justice , an alternative concept in corrections according to which only violent career criminals would be imprisoned, while nonviolent offenders would work in closely monitored community projects, earning money with which to make financial restitution to their victims and their victims' families, to repay court and corrections costs, and to support their own families: "'With restorative justice , we hold offenders accountable and make the victim the center of the criminal justice process'" (Joseph Lehman, Maine's commissioner of corrections, in The New York Times ).

Background: Proponents of restorative justice estimate that 25 percent of the nation's criminal offenders could be repaying their debts to their victims and society by working, under electronic supervision, in a variety of settings--in emergency rooms, for example, or driving senior citizens to meals--and also receiving job training. Proponents make up an unlikely alliance, including wardens, academics, prison chaplains, lawmakers, and even some victims. The emergence of the concept and the term ("'I've been talking restorative justice in Maine for years,'" Lehman says) is an anomaly in an era of harsher sentencing guidelines and a push toward building more prisons.

sitting volleyball , volleyball played by people with serious leg injuries or leg amputations, usually on an indoor court smaller than regulation size and with a net lower than standard height: "[In] Sarajevo . . . the game . . . is the sport of the future. It is sitting volleyball --played by men with damaged legs" (Washington Post ).

Background: Also called legless volleyball , the sport can be traced back at least as far as the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when an American team composed chiefly of Vietnam veterans came into existence. Sitting volleyball has grown in popularity since 1992, when the latest Balkan strife began. Another term arising from this war is turbo folk , denoting a discordant blend of disco and traditional Serbian melodies with brooding, fatalistic lyrics expressive of Serbia's isolation and the emotional turbulence that attends civil war. Turbo-folk nightclubs are typically peopled by garishly dressed women and men toting guns. Serbia, one observer has written, is "a nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. . . . And turbo-folk culture, something between gangsterism and a bad imitation of Madonna's Hollywood, is the most pronounced expression of this psychosis" (Wall Street Journal ).

The Atlantic Monthly; April, 1996; Word Watch; Volume 277, No. 4; page 128.