I borrowed this week's "Think Again" column from my friends over at McSweeney's. They've put together something they call The Future Dictionary of America, which they describe as "a guide to the American language sometime in the future, when all or most of our country's problems are solved" and our unhappy political moment is but a distant memory. The book includes contributions from almost 200 writers and artists. (It also comes with a CD with new songs and rarities from R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith, Tom Waits, David Byrne, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, They Might Be Giants, and Death Cab for Cutie, among others. If you want to buy the book and CD after reading this, or even before, go here. The money will go to lots of good causes which are all described on the McSweeney's Web site. Here are a few of the highlights:
ashcrofted [ash'-krofftid] adj. removed from or disqualified for public office on grounds of religious delusions. Derived from The People v. President Ashcroft, the landmark Supreme Court decision that disqualifies all candidates for public office who espouse a religion and/or other organized forms of magical, delusional, or psychotic thinking, on the constitutional grounds of separation of church and state, a decision taken at the time of the restoration of the Constitution following upon the dynastic, so-called "anti-terrorist" or "neopatriot" era.
Axis of evil [ack'-sis uv ee'-vil] n. any perceived "nuclear" power that distracts attention from the national debt.
Cheney Effect [chay'-nee ee-fekt'] n. the manifestation of personality changes brought on by the reception of a transplanted organ, usually the heart.
dark natter [dark nat'-ur] n., v. an analogue of "dark matter" which astrophysicists speculate may constitute as much as 90 percent of the universe, dark natter is empty but continuous chatter of an ominous sort, whether in direct discourse, by way of the electronic media, or in print. (n.) A lethal cloud of dark natter formed above the nation's capitol and is reported to be drifting in all directions. (v.) He dark-nattered his way through the Bible Belt with conspicuous success. Also: He was dark-nattered into defeat by ingenious opponents.
—JOYCE CAROL OATES
enron [en'-rahn] v. 1. to redeem oneself, particularly after grievous wrongs to society, by embracing good works. 2. to change dramatically and unexpectedly for the benefit of all. Derived from the story of scandal-ridden executives of the Enron Corporation who exemplified the Corporate Malfeasance Era of the first decade of the 21st century, and then, in a remarkable turnaround, devoted themselves to promoting reforms to better the lives of working families. After a nightly visitation by three spirits, the infamous miser suddenly enroned, becoming as good of a friend, master, and man as the good city knew.
environment [en-viyr'-un-ment] n. 1. a confused mass of biota, rocky places, open plains, and ditches filled variously with water, muck, and blood, with the potential of being converted into strip mines, strip malls, and strip clubs, to the everlasting benefit of mankind and the Halliburton Corporation. 2. a kind of place, like an office cubicle, where deals are made. 3. the prevailing mood or climate in which deals are made. 4. [colloq] turf or 'hood. 5. a conceptual space, like the airspace over Iraq, which will create a sucking void if not filled to repleteness with high explosives.
Floridation [flah'-rih-day'-shun] n. the process of adding mind-altering chemicals into the public water supply, as has been done in Florida since the late 20th century. The chemical additive most commonly used in the early 21st century, a water-soluble Mind Debilitator mixed with rum and feldspar (commonly known as Rum-Feld-WMD) was perfected by Florida's ex-governor, Jeb Bush, while he was doing time with his two brothers at Leavenworth. In small doses, Rum-Feld-WMD has been found to offer those who imbibe it a pleasant imperviousness to reality. In larger doses it has proven to be fatal.
libcon [lib'-kahn] n. 1. a leftist who seeks to conserve what "conservatives" desire to destroy, to wit: social security, funded public education, the environment, scientific objectivity, social welfare, equal rights for women, the Constitution of the United States, strategic alliances, the minimum wage, gun control, and child labor laws. 2. any such person attacked on Fox News. 3. [informal] a dangerous radical.
No Left-Behind Child Act [noh left-bee-hiynd' chiy'-uld akt] U.S. Congressional act disqualifying any person from holding the office of American president who has not passed a series of rigorous examinations demonstrating psychological and emotional maturity, as well as expert knowledge of a wide range of subjects, including American history, world history, government, economics, law, geography, political science, etc., and a strong command of the English language.
ralphnadir [ralf-nay'-deer] 1. n. the lowest point in any process, whereby the urgent need to alter that process becomes manifest. The ralphnadir of America's unrepresentative two-party system led to the establishment, in 2012, of our current proportional allnite-party system. 2. v. the act of creating such a low point while simultaneously undoing one's reputation. He ralphnadired their relationship when he condi-scendingly denied that he'd cheneyed their joint account.
reality [ree-al'-uh-tee] n. anything experienced in private. ANT. Unreality n. anything appearing on or experienced through the mass media.
—ROBERT OLEN BUTLER
squawkback [skwahk'-bak] n. parrot-like repetition of a question by the respondent; this invariably precedes a lie. Squawkback allows an ostensive acknowledgment of the question while providing the respondent with a mental pause in which to formulate a falsehood. The repeated phrase may be delivered in either a thoughtful or an incredulous tone. Ex.: "Was I aware of this? Well…"; "Did that influence my decision? Why…"; "Was it a mistake? Well…"
terrorism [teh'-roh-riz-um] n. 1. the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons. (American Heritage Dictionary) 2. cheating on a test. Sixty of the 62 international terrorists, according to a March story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, turned out to be Middle Eastern students who had cheated on a test; specifically, they had paid others to take an English proficiency exam required for college or graduate school. 3. unionization of educational employees. Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, "a terrorist organization." 4. a government unaligned with the United States. President George W. Bush sent an ultimatum to the world's leaders today: "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists." 5. drug trafficking. Drug Czar Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday, "It is clear that there is not really a distinction between the drug traffickers and the terrorist organizations." (see also: Drug War, Taft-Hartley Act, Political Violence)
wolfowish [wulf'-oh-wish] v. hoping for that which is highly unlikely. Believing that the residents of Sadr City would greet the approaching Humvees with rose petals and chocolates was, in hindsight, probably indulging in a bit of wolfowishing.
Eric Alterman is a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress.