Today's helping of new words and meanings to save you from English language-shock

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the most alarming things that happen when you start to grow up is that you realise that the English language, as used by other, younger or more expert people, is changing, and that words you thought had established their meaning for ever have in fact shifted again. New words are created, old words change their meaning and anyone who still thinks that "icon" means a Russian picture of Jesus, or that "noir" means black, is in for a shock, sooner or later.

To help avoid such stress, I am attempting to publish an occasional part- work glossary of the English language as it evolves, and today sees the appearance of another helping of new words and meanings.

Appropriate: Likely to get the speaker out of deep trouble, if only temporarily, as in "We have to make the appropriate response".

BAFTA: An award given to a British film to make up for its getting nothing at the Oscars.

Blockbuster: Name given to any film that fails to make a loss. If it makes quite a reasonable profit, it is called the Greatest Grosser of All Time.

Ceasefire: A barely veiled threat to resume violence.

Celeb: Someone who appears on TV programmes because they have appeared on other TV programmes, though nobody can remember which ones. See Game Show.

Chat: Something which superficially resembles conversation but turns out on inspection to be quite different. On a chat show, the host does not actually converse with his guests - he merely hopes that the questions he has prepared in advance will vaguely match the stories that his guest has prepared in advance. A talk show is much the same, except that the guests are occasionally allowed to engage each other in monologues.

Clubbing: Something that hunters do to baby seals and teenagers do to each other.

Comedians: see Quiz Shows.

Coruscating: A word much misused on programmes which should know better, such as Newsnight. It sounds like "corrosive" so it is wrongly used to mean "scathing" and "sarcastic". Its true meaning is "sparkling, flashing with light, witty..."

Cuttings: Pieces of newspaper which, on chat shows, pass for research.

Diva: Any moderately famous female performer. Cf the phrase, "Don't forget the diva".

Dome: London's answer to the Eiffel Tower. At present the Dome is a joke. But so was the Eiffel Tower.

Eponyms: Thing named after a person, from Jean-Jacques Eponyme, who invented the eponym.

Formulaic: Term applied to any TV programme that reminds the speaker of any other TV programme, however distantly.

Game Show: TV programme devised by the government as a work opportunity for celebs who can find no other kind of employment.

Guru: See Maven.

Hommage: The act of ripping off another artist.

Hyper: Big, super, as in hypermarket.

Hypo: Less, little. A hypomarket would be a good name for a corner shop.

Item: Two people temporarily living together, as in "We are an item". Also, a mysterious thing charged for on a restaurant bill but not actually consumed - cover, corkage, service, bread, etc.

Jojoba: A bush which is hunted voraciously by shampoo snatch squads.

Maven: see Shaman

Monologue: The introductory portion of a chat show, and the only part of it in which the host gets a chance to show how clever his scriptwriter is.

Noir: Said of a film in which people smoke a lot.

Peace Process: Name given to a lull in the war process.

People's: Term given to anything which the people didn't want and didn't need. People's princess, people's palace, etc.

Probe: Name given to an unsuccessful police investigation.

Quiz Show: TV programme devised by the government as a work opportunity for comedians who can find no other kind of employment.

Quote: Any remark made by a famous person in a cutting which the person doesn't remember making and probably didn't. See Sherrin.

Shaman: See Guru.

Supermodel: Another word for model.

Template: Posh word for pattern.

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