More Nineties terms of abuse

Miles Kington with another selection of useful words for the modern world - and their real meanings
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The Independent Culture
FROM TIME to time I bring you an update on modern usage, in a continuing glossary of the words of the 1990s, and here is another small selection for your collection.

Abuse: Another word for "use", as in "drug abuse".

Ambassador: A man who drink, vomits and tries to kill policemen, as in "We want our football supporters to be ambassadors for England".

Anorak: A rather useful rain garment.

Bastion: Some thing which is always "the last....".

Bittersweet: Applied to a film, it tends to mean a happy story with a sad ending or a sad story with a happy ending, but REALLY means "what's left of the author's best intentions after Hollywood has done its worst".

Book Reviewer: A man or woman who always has his or her name in bigger print than the author of the book under review.

Britpop: The musical wing of English Heritage.

Clinical: Based on direct observation of a patient, and therefore heavily involved in practicality (as opposed to work in a laboratory, etc). Also, scientifically detached, objective, etc. The word therefore means EITHER emotionally detached OR directly involved. This may help to explain why it is always used wrongly. Or, of course, correctly.

Dork: See "nerd".

Forensic: Although the dictionary definition of this is "pertaining to a court of law", it has come to have a quite different meaning, i.e. "lots of DNA and blood and semen samples being tested by a police specialist in a white coat, played by that actor, you know, what's his name..........

Honour: Something which we used to develop for ourselves, as in "a sense of honour", but which is now given to us by the Government, from an "honours list".

Incident off the ball: Football term meaning "grievous bodily harm".

Infringement: Another football term, meaning "something minor our team has done wrong". If the other team does it, it's called "a blatant foul".

Irony: A way of justifying violence.

Jury system: The democratic process whereby, when twelve good men and true are gathered together, they elect the poshest to be chairman.

Link: A mistaken belief among Radio 4 people that you have to find a connection between two items, so that you hear Bragg or Purves saying: "I expect there is a link between Renaissance Art and tight-rope walking, but if there is I can't spot it, so let's go straight on to ...." Total waste of time, fellows.

Logistics: The art of finding the easiest solution to anything. The opposite of politics.

Mindset: Politically correct way of referring to someone's arrant prejudices. Nerd: see "wally".

New Labour: New is the name given to something about to become very old. Think of New York and New Zealand. Or Edinburgh New Town, one of the oldest pieces of town planning still in use. Or the New Testament, very nearly 2,000 years old by now. Thus, it is only a matter of time before someone is referred to as Old New Labour. Confusingly, there is a chain of eating places in England called Old Orleans. Old Orleans is a town in France, famous for its vinegar etc. But they don't mean that - they mean Old New Orleans.

Politics: A system in which one side furiously tries to make the other side adopt its ideas, and is then even more furious if it does.

Religion: The theory that there is intelligent life in the next world.

Science: The theory that, if only we knew everything, it would probably be wrong.

Talk to: To try to cut someone down to size, to take the piss out of, as in "Lynn Barber talks to Stephen Fry".

Technology: Science that makes money.

Tory Party: A loose-knit organisation of Jeffrey Archer's ex-friends.

Trainspotter: A man who collects anoraks.

Truth: A commodity sought every Monday morning at 9.00am by Melvyn Bragg and his chums on Start The Week, who, like Enid Blyton's Famous Five, set out after every weekend to seek the answer to the question: "Why is there a mysterious light shining in yon old deserted pile of philosophy?", but discover that there is no time before 9.45 to discover it, despite which they'll be back at 9.00am next week, eager as puppies.

Vermin: Name given by humans to forms of life that are hostile to humans, although it is quite possible that being hostile to humans will turn out to be the very best way to preserve the planet.

Wally: See "woos".

World Cup '98: Irrefutable proof, at last, that it is possible to stage a major football event without three fat opera singers.

Woos: See "dork".