Rosie Right 

Our language and how it works.

Signature language

In my last column I discussed a letter from Bonnie Attwood that complained about the use of the word signature in the discussion of the queen's "signature" white gloves. Almost immediately, I came upon a similar use of the word in what to me seems to be an indication of the contagiousness of language. About Paul D. Wolfowitz's resignation from the World Bank presidency, Steven Wiseman wrote in The New York Times: "They also cited Mr. Wolkowitz'a work in combating corruption, his signature issue." I am going to keep a sharp eye out for that misuse. Surely in this sad old world of ours there is corruption almost everywhere we look. Wolfowitz is not the only one who is trying to keep it clean.

Talk the Talk

While you are perhaps avoiding signature, here are a few trendy words you might want to consider dropping into your conversations:

Chav, noun. In the United Kingdom (originally the south of England), a young person of a type characterized by brash and loutish behavior and the wearing of designer-style clothes (esp. sportswear), usually with connotations of a low social status. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.

Cheffing, verb. Cooking, especially professional cooking; the action or profession of working as a chef. Source: the Oxford English Dictionary listing of new words.

Colony collapse disorder, noun. The mysterious ailment that is killing bees across the country. Source: Gretta Lorge article in Wired.

Gallerist, noun. The owner of an art gallery; an art dealer. Source: Copy Editor Newletter, June-July 2007.

Obesogenic, adective. Tending to cause obesity. Source: Oxford English Dictionary Web site listing new words that the editors are accepting. This one should be useful to describe those cocktail party goodies that definitely make us fat.

Polyamory, noun. The state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time. Source: Merriam Webster's New Words.

Poverett, noun. Poor person. This is a sample from Mobspeak (www.hbo.com/sopranos/mobspeak/), an HBO Web site that gives us a comprehensive look at the language of the Mob. It doesn't list any appropriate social settings for the use of the terms.

Let Rosie hear from you by e-mail (rozanne.epps@styleweekly.com), by telephone (358-0825, ext. 322) or by regular mail (c/o Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, VA 23230).

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