Wednesday Words: Wall-Street Speak, Spaceships and More

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David McGlynn

Welcome to NewsFeed’s weekly highlight of our vocabulary — including useful, new, hilarious and surprising words (as well as some that are just fun to roll off the old tongue).

Protest parlance: “political disobedience”

In an op-ed about the Occupy Wall Street protesters—those “99%-ers” who are railing against what they see as the greed and corruption of the richest, most powerful 1%—the New York Times’ Bernard Harcourt suggests a new term for their actions: political disobedience. He likens it to civil disobedience and defines it as the fundamental rejection of “the political and ideological landscape that we inherited from the Cold War.” This may include objections to: greed, the Citizens United decision, the Iraq War, Rep. Charlie Rangel and people who don’t like drum circles.

Talk of the street:  The protestors have zeroed in on Wall Street, a thoroughfare located in the south of Manhattan, the schmanciest of New York’s boroughs. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the street was named for an earthen wall that the Dutch built to repel an English invasion in 1653, and has since gained renown as the financial center of the universe. The more damning aspects of Wall Street’s reputation can be traced back to roughly 126 minutes of 1987.

(MORE: “The World Is Watching”: Occupy Wall Street Stares Down the NYPD)

Watercooler slang: “dining al desko”

The Atlantic recently ran a preview of vocabulary from The Wage Slave’s Glossary, a collection of “modern office idioms.” Running through terms from A to Z, they arrived at nosebag, a verb meaning “to eat hurriedly while at work.” A newer term for this is dining al desko, they note, a brilliantly bathetic take on dining “alfresco,” an Italian term meaning “taking place or located in the open air.” Another spin might be dining al Pesko, referring to those meals one takes while sitting on Joe Pesci’s lap.

The business: Other terms in the Wage Slave highlight include eyeservice, which is the practice of working only when the boss is watching. There is funemployment, a term for those who actually enjoy being out of work in this jobless era. And there is hurry sickness, a diagnosis for those who feel constantly short on time.

The language of America: “spaceship democracy”

In a charmingly cavalier recap of last night’s bazillionith Republican debate, TIME‘s Michael Scherer names the motif decorating so many television studios these days. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper “is standing,” he writes, “on the set of American Idol, or the CNN version of it, lights everywhere, the red and blue lines of spaceship democracy.” Essential elements of decoration include: high-definition stars and stripes, walls plastered in TV screens, a flag-inspired colored scheme, touch-activated gadgets, unnatural brightness/shine, and, ideally, at least one correspondent beaming in via hologram.

During the debate: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in reliably quotable style, took on fellow candidate Herman Cain’s catchy “9-9-9” tax plan. “At the end of the week I’ll be laying out a plan,” he said, “I’ll bump plans with you, brother, and we’ll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again.” To bump plans being the verb of choice, of course, when a Lone Star politician challenges a pizza executive to a policy duel.

MORE: The Cain 9-9-9 Plan: How Much the 99% Would Pay

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @KatySteinmetz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.