Originally created 10/11/05

Coining phrases with enough 'velcro factor' to stick

"Be careful how you interpret the world: It is like that."

- Erich Heller

When you spend time with words as I do, you hope you might one day make up a word or phrase that ends up in the dictionary.

I thought I did it once back in my political reporting days when I referred to a certain former president who had incredibly bad luck in the White House.

I mentioned his "velcro factor," and how everything bad seemed to stick with him. It was a play on a more successful president's well-publicized "teflon factor." A rival with the Atlanta newspaper looked over my shoulder and asked, "Did you make that up?"

I said I guess I did. Unfortunately, like the only presidency of a native Georgian, the phrase failed to catch on.

I thought about all this last week when Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which formally defines words that have taken root in American conversation, came out with its latest version and latest words. "Chick flick" was one. "Bikini wax," another.

"We're looking for words that show up in the contexts that the average adult might encounter," John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president and publisher, told the Associated Press.

With that in mind, I keep trying attract the interest of Merriam-Webster editors with a variety of new words.

My favorite is "slackluster," a word I once used to describe the efforts of a young former reporter. His work was not only lacking in any form of luster, but he seemed to make a conscious effort not to try very hard - a slacker. Together, they equaled slackluster.

Another was "deja view." I conceived this phenomenon after noticing I often found myself hitting the same rerun episode while TV channel surfing.

"I feel like I've seen this before ..." I thought to myself. And I had. It was "deja view."

My latest handiwork at word-smithing came this weekend when I came up with "nagigator." Surely you know one. This is the person who helps navigate your driving by polite nagging.

"It's quicker if you turn here," he or she might say.

"Can't you get closer to the door?" they might add.

"I think you parked too close to that truck," they suggest.

The great thing about nagigators is they inspire us to think up other words.

I shall leave those to your imagination.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.


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