Arnie and George W - proof of America's sense of irony

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Words and meanings are changing the whole time, so here is anther glossary update of some of the latest shifts in semantic significance.

Airport security

The theory that one woman with a pair of nail scissors could hijack an entire international jet flight, and the measures taken to prevent this.


The only town in Scotland with a Hawaiian name.


An arrangement whereby ordinary people have to surrender all of their guns to the police, while armed criminals are allowed to keep theirs.

Antique shop

Place where you can find enormous quantities of nail scissors, firearms, etc, sold surreptitiously by impoverished air-security people, police, etc.


An artistic method of getting round building regulations.


A corporate conservatory.


A word meaning "voted for by a few thousand bored TV viewers".


A diet method based on homeopathic principles.


A word that means "sparkling" or "scintillating", but is bafflingly used, even by intelligent people, to mean "corrosive" or "polemical".

Drive-by Shooting

A method of population control practised in those parts of the world where traffic still moves freely.


Said of any boring game in which the scores of both sides are equal.


A game in which one man, now too old to play, gives overriding instructions to 11 men, still too young to think for themselves.

For sure

A strange idiomatic expression used widely by foreigners who have learnt to speak English well, but never used by those who speak English as their native language.


See "Meadow, Roy, Sir, Professor".


A place in California where good European films are turned into bad American movies. Also, where old American men finance films about old American men having affairs with young American women.


Anything that is slightly better than anything else is said to be iconic. (If it is a lot better, it is said to be élitist.)


There is a continuing suspicion that America has no sense of irony. But California has made Arnold Schwarzenegger its governor! The US has made George W Bush its president, even though he got fewer votes than Al Gore! And Titanic got an Oscar! What more does America have to do to show that it has a great sense of irony?

Meadow, Roy, Sir, Professor

Many scientists are convinced that there is no God. Many other scientists think that there must be a God. Only Professor Sir Roy Meadow was taken by many to actually be God. (Probably a very angry God, as many mothers and children have to be sacrificed to him every year.)

New Labour

Name given to the ageing, old-fashioned political party led by Tony Blair.

Old Labour

Having a baby without taking drugs.

Olympic Ideal

The profound belief that an ailing modern city can be miraculously cured by the addition of velodromes and rowing-lakes.


A ceremony at which lots of old American men give awards to films in which old American men go to bed with young American women.


The name we give to someone we haven't thought of a name for yet.


The name that critics give to the feeling that the film or book they are watching or reading is vaguely reminiscent of something else that they have seen or read but they can't think what. (If they can remember what, and it was well done, it is called a "hommage"; and "formulaic" if badly done.)


The name given by the Americans to any country they wish to invade.


A novelty item for men that often keeps them up way past their bedtime.


A common curse among modern British soldiers, it is an abbreviation of "Woe to the Ministry of Defence!".