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Define of the Times: A ‘BAD’ Idea?

Column by Jim Bishop

Scarcely a day goes by in my work that I don’t consult my trusty Webster’s Ninth for help with spelling, punctuation, capitalization or geographic references.

Problem with a dictionary, however, is that you need to know how to spell the word in order to locate it. And, once found, the definition(s) given may not be the most helpful or applicable to the project at hand.

That’s why I believe another resource is needed to supplement the efforts of Mr. Webster and Associates. Here, in early production stage, is the “Bishop’s Amplified Dictionary” (note the acronym), a reference work that goes a step farther (maybe too far) in defining word meanings more precisely. Here’s a sampling:

Ambidextrous: consuming a Double Whopper and milkshake while driving a van load of screaming pre-schoolers on the Capital Beltway during rush hour.

Agony: running into someone you haven’t seen in 20 years while frantically searching for a bathroom.

Camouflage: those pre-sweetened cereals that have quietly removed the word “sugar” from their names but not from their ingredients.

Chimera: your high-school guidance counselor reappearing as the examiner at your first job interview after college.

Corrugated: a Pennsylvania road.

Defiance: a city in Northwest Ohio (sorry!); buying a chair or mattress and immediately tearing off all those “do not remove” labels.

Discomfort: discovering in a group setting that the person you’ve been bad-mouthing for five minutes is related to someone in that gathering.

Embarrassment: your pastor catching you browsing through the “adult” section of the video store.

Effervescence: Gargling with Drano.

Frustration: trying to overhear a nearby conversation that is more interesting than the one you’re involved in.

Futility: being stuck on a cloverleaf with no exit ramp.

Greenhouse effect: any lush, exotic plant taken home will immediately turn sickly and die.

Hail: a Southern epithet; rain coming down the hard way.

Hypocrisy: public service messages on “responsible drinking” from the alcoholic beverage industry.

Injustice: Arriving early at work when your boss is late, and vice-versa.

Justice: meeting a classmate at a reunion who refused to go out with you in high school and now looks like something the cat wouldn’t drag in.

Lackluster: Pat Boone singing “Little Richard’s Greatest Hits.”

Lethargy: chronic illness that plagues service plazas along interstates.

Mirage: a stand-up comedy routine on VH-1 where a comic is actually funny; a TV mini-series where the couple meet, marry, then bed down; a sweepstakes mailing without fine print that reads, “Actual odds of winning a grand prize: 9 million-to-1.”

Normal: what everything and everyone would be like if you and I had our way.

Opera: a fate worse than rap music; terror on the high C’s.

Passable: the odds of getting around that slow-moving vehicle before meeting that tractor-trailer head-on.

Peaked: descending the first big drop on a roller-coaster ride and noting that the person in front of you is about to be sick.

Perseverance: The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” hitting #1 on the charts 25 years after it was first released.

Politician: monkey see, monkey do-do.

Rapprochement: a word to inject in conversation to impress others, even though used incorrectly, as in “that man is above rapprochement.”

Relativity: theory that two wrongs don’t make a right, but that three do.

Ripoff: what is happening to us at this very moment at the gas pumps.

Scintillating: spending an evening with your friends watching “C-Span.”

Toxic: anchovies, jalapeno peppers, okra, sauerkraut.

Uncooperative: the wheel on the shopping cart that goes the opposite direction of the other three.

Unsporting: Bill Gates winning the lottery jackpot.

Versatile: the ability to write poetry while laying floor covering.

Worthless: That which has no right to exist or serves no useful purpose, i.e., algebra, the U.S. Congress, home shopping channels, parking meters, rap music, inane newspaper columns of ridiculous word plays … hmmmm?

So, shall I continue with this project, or close the book on it?

Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be reached at

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