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Briefing and Opinion
November 26, 2004

Word up
Massachusetts College of Art student Nick Rodrigues of Boston wears one of his art creations as he talks on a cell phone. His sculpture comments on how people isolate themselves with cell phones. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)
Massachusetts College of Art student Nick Rodrigues wears one of his art creations as he talks on a cell phone. His sculpture comments on how people isolate themselves with cell phones. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)

Word Spy book cover

Paul McFedries's WORD SPY is an excellent linguistic guide to modern culture -- an entertaining means to bone up on the latest lingo without having to watch the annoying television that spawned it.


1: Stage-Phoning
2: Fo Shizzle
3: Metrosexual
4: Irritainment
5: Joy-to-Stuff Ratio
6: Layoff Lust
7: Strategic Incompetence
In a study titled "Aggravating Circumstances: A Status Report on Rudeness in America," published in 2002 by Public Agenda, researchers reported that 49 percent of people say that they often see people using their cell phones in a loud or annoying manner.
stage-phoning pp. (2001) Attempting to impress nearby people by talking on a cell phone in an animated, theatrical manner.
"Frequently seen in cafes, coffeehouses, and airports, the Dealmaker speaks loudly and appears to prefer captive audiences. He may engage in what researcher Sadie Plant, author of the Motorola report, refers to as 'stage-phoning,' in which the caller is effectively performing for innocent bystanders. (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, July 17, 2002)"

Fo shizzle means "for sure" (it appears as fo shizzle and fa shizzle). The NEW YORK TIMES' James Poniewozik reported in a February 10, 2003 article that rapper Snoop Dogg introduced himself on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show as "Big Snoopy D-O-double-gizzle-fo'-shizzle-dizzle." It doesn't sound like a phrase with any staying power, but on March 4, 2003, the CHICAGO TRIBUNE ran the following headline "Sizzle fo shizzle."

The French philosopher Rene Descartes is, outside of mathematics circles, most famous for his dictum cogito ergo sum -- I think, therefore I am. If he were alive today and had grown up in the affluence and materialism that has characterized the Western world for the past 50 years or so, he might have come up with a slightly different formulation: emo ergo sum -- I buy, therefore I am.

In the male ranks, the shopping flag is carried most proudly by the metrosexual (1994), a dandyish narcissist in love not only with himself, but with his urban lifestyle. The writer Mark Simpson invented this term, and here's his succinct description of the metrosexual type:
"The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis -- because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. (SALON.COM, July 22, 2002)"