Can You Define 'Dubyavirus'?

Author Dave Eggers talks to readers at The City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, in this April 2, 2001 photo. Eggers donated his $1,500 speaking fee to a high school teacher, Eryn Osterhaus, who attended a lecture he gave last week. Osterhaus says she plans to take her kids book shopping with the money, hoping a jaunt to the bookstore will build their interest in reading. AP

If you've never dropped the word "dubyavirus" into casual conversation, urged that an official be "ashcrofted" or commented upon "The Cheney Effect," then you haven't seen the future, at least the future according to McSweeney's.

The ever-expanding genre of anti-Bush books has now entered the reference field. Coming in August from McSweeney's, the publishing house founded by author-activist Dave Eggers, is "The Future Dictionary of America," a Utopian tome set "sometime" beyond the present.

Contributors include Eggers, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Jonathan Franzen, Wendy Wasserstein and more than 100 others. Proceeds will be donated to "groups working for the public good in the 2004 election."

"The dictionary was conceived as a way for a great number of American writers and artists to voice their displeasure with their current political leadership, and to collectively imagine a brighter future," reads an introductory note from the editors, who include Eggers and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer.

The McSweeney's dictionary includes both new words such as "dubyavirus" and old words such as "environment" with new definitions. Most of the entries are political. Some are philosophical, some simply playful.

Author T.C. Boyle offers several definitions of "environment," including "a conceptual space, like the airspace over Iraq, which will create a sucking void if not filled to repleteness with high explosives."

Under the entry "dubyavirus," fiction writer Thisbe Nissen imagines that President Bush has been indicted as a war criminal, thus ending "an aggressively invasive and tragically widespread disease." Another fiction writer, Paul Auster, defines "bush" as "a poisonous family of shrubs, now extinct."

In homage to Vice President Dick Cheney, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides invokes the "Cheney Effect," reserved for "the manifestation of personality changes brought on by the reception of a transplanted organ, usually the heart."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the basis for "rumsfeld," defined by Vonnegut as "one who can stomach casualties." Attorney General John Ashcroft inspired novelist Robert Coover to coin "ashcrofted," when one is "removed from or disqualified for public office on grounds of religious delusions."

Daniel Handler, known to young readers as Lemony Snicket, gives us "fraudeville," in which "white-collar criminals were punished by performing tricks live on stage." Eggers has fun with "lactose intolerance," which he predicts will be cured in 2005 by one Ronald Frame, who will receive a "Nobel Prize and a tricked-out Camino." Franzen, author of the award-winning novel "The Corrections," invents "the silence parlor," a soundproofed cafe "equipped with noise-cancellation technology."

Joyce Carol Oates presents "dark natter," which she labels "continuous chatter of an ominous sort." Stephen King contributes "sloudge," his term for the endless political opining on cable television. "Most sloudge," King writes, is conducted by "overweight white men" seated around "shiny tables" and mouthing off against the liberal state.

Sample usage of sloudge, a la King: "The President's press conference was followed by over three hours of sloudge on MSNBC and six hours of sloudge on Fox-TV."

Some liberals, too, receive entries. "Dean depression," named for failed presidential contender Howard Dean, is defined by short story writer Ken Foster as "the surprising and illogical defeat of a populist candidate." Cartoonist Art Spiegelman contributes "ralphnadir," which is "the lowest point in any process," so low that the process must be changed.

Some examples:

"The ralphnadir of America's unrepresentative two-party system led to the establishment, in 2012, of our current proportional allnite-party system."

"He ralphnadired their relationship when he condi-scendingly denied that he'd cheneyed their joint account."
  • Lauren Johnston

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