Word Watch

by Anne H. Soukhanov

medical foods

broadbanding, a new promotion-and-pay structure in which workers spend most of their careers within a single but very wide salary grade: "Your next promotion could be a lateral move. That's the idea behind broadbanding, a pay structure that's being embraced by an increasing number of companies" (Wall Street Journal).

BACKGROUND: Traditionally, many companies have had as many as 25 salary grades, most of them fairly narrow; however, with broadbanding a company may have as few as two. Broadbanding is part of a general trend away from hierarchical corporate structures. It allows managers greater flexibility: for example, they can give employees raises without officially promoting them, and can move employees into different slots and teach them new skills without having to consider whether the changes technically constitute promotions or demotions. However, some employees are loath to give up the status and perks that often come with advancement in a multi-tiered system. Other critics argue that broadbanding allows companies to avoid giving raises even when an employee's duties are expanded, and that the potential inequities of the system may lead some employees to seek out practitioners of career coaching -- an unlicensed but rapidly growing profession, dating from the early 1980s -- who offer job and sometimes personal guidance for a hefty fee.

cultural transvestitismthe imitation of the habits of violent inner-city gangs by privileged white youths: "Her script is about the 'cultural transvestitism' of rich, white youth mimicking South-Central Los Angeles' dangerous club scene" (The [London] Times).

BACKGROUND: This word was propelled into the language by Jessica Kaplan, who was 17 when she wrote the movie script described above. Kaplan's rich young characters go to a school that, she says, "doesn't have a culture of its own, so it's copying the language and clothes of others" (Wall Street Journal). The phenomenon Kaplan describes recalls a word discussed in this space in 1993: the offensive slang term wiggers, used for white teenagers who affect the mannerisms of inner-city African-American youths. Whether the phrase cultural transvestitism will in time acquire a broader meaning -- coming to stand for the imitation of any group by another -- remains to be seen.

medical foods attractively packaged medications that typically come in the form of cookies, pastries, candy bars, and other snacks. Also called nutriceuticals: "These products, some available now and some on the drawing board, are part of a potentially huge market in 'nutriceuticals,' what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies as 'medical foods'" (Boston Globe).

BACKGROUND: To meet the FDA's definition, a medical food must help to control a disease that is not otherwise treatable through diet, and must be recommended by a physician. One example: a "candy bar" containing three sources of glucose, intended for insulin-taking diabetics and eaten at bedtime to prevent nocturnal hypoglycemia. Though the term medical foods is relatively new, nutriceuticals goes back at least to 1991.

stork parking choice parking spots, near store entrances, that are reserved for expectant and new mothers: "Don't even think of parking there, mister. Those pink

. . .

parking spaces bearing a stork insignia are for new moms and moms-to-be.

Called 'stork parking,' these door-front spaces are popping up nationwide at supermarkets, discount stores and even a baseball stadium" (USA Today).

BACKGROUND: Also called maternity parking, can be traced as far back as 1994. Originally concentrated in the South, it is starting to catch on elsewhere in the country.

sucker bomb an explosive whose main purpose is to lure the police and others to the scene, so that a second bomb can be deployed to maximum effect: "Anti-terrorist groups call them 'sucker bombs.' The bomber draws a crowd with one device, purely to detonate a second, often more powerful device in their midst" (New York Times).

BACKGROUND: Sucker bombs have long been used by overseas terrorist groups intent on injuring or killing law-enforcement and rescue personnel as well as civilians. The term gained wider currency in this country last January, after a sucker bomb was used in an attack on an Atlanta family-planning clinic.

Illustrations by Michael C. Witte

The Atlantic Monthly; August 1997; Word Watch; Volume 280, No. 2; page 100.