Only In America?

U.S. Colloquialisms Make Way Into OED

The following American slang expressions have found their way into the Oxford English Dictionary:

  • Veg, v.
    slang (orig. U.S.).
    intr. Often with out. To ‘vegetate’; to pass the time in mindless or vacuous inactivity, esp. by watching television.

    1980 Washington Post 14 Aug. DC7/1 They're just vegging out, not seeing what they can do. 1983 Verbatim IX. IV. 1/1 Paulies who don't vedge (‘vegetate’) will produce good grades. 1986 G. WOLFF Providence iv. 29 The dog just vegged, head between its paws. 1988 Independent 28 Nov. 26/2 Cold rubbery pizzas for paralytic lager louts vegging out in front of the late-night movie. 1991 Ottawa Citizen 14 Dec. 56/1 Television viewing is usually done in a very casual manner. We tend to turn on the set, aim the remote, then veg.


    Hence vegged(-out) ppl. a.

    1986 Life Mar. 46/2 Jeff Abrams..uses the word ‘vegged’ to describe when ‘you're sitting on your couch, your house catches on fire, and you sit there and say, ‘‘Wow’’.’ 1988 Computerworld 15 Aug. 101 They don't just sit and get vegged-out in front of the thing.





  • Lowball, v.
    Comm. (chiefly U.S.).
    trans. a. To give a low estimate of (a cost or price) to a potential customer, esp. with the intention of raising it after a deal has been agreed; more generally, to underestimate or understate (an amount). Also absol. b. To deceive (a customer) by offering an unrealistically low price, estimate, etc.

    1978 Business Week 3 July 23/3 You can't lowball a price and expect to buy anything. 1983 in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dict. s.v., To give (a customer) a deceptively low price or cost estimate. 1987 Forbes (N.Y.) 18 May 144/2 The managers back in Tokyo have been lowballing bids and accepting dangerously thin margins. 1988 Crain's Chicago Business 11 Apr. 3/4 Anchor management lowballed on their estimates of increases in medical charges and health care utilization. 1991 Connecticut May 93 Are you being lowballed by someone who hopes to make money on extras later?


    So lowballing vbl. n. and ppl. a.; lowballer n.

    1977 Rolling Stone 16 June 13/5 Thus do the Jimmy's and Peaches of this world go on their lowballing ways, slowly but inevitably cutting into the rack jobbers' share of the market. 1978 S. BRILL Teamsters v. 198 ‘Lowballing’ is a procedure whereby one trucking company takes away business from another company..by underbidding that company for the work. Ibid. x. 198 Reputable department stores..use the low-ballers for deliveries. 1987 Drug Topics 20 Apr. 13/1 Kirk R. Agthe..said the profession is in this current mess due to lowballing of prices and services. 1992 Independent 16 Nov. 23/3 Desperation for work, particularly in the devastated commercial property market, has led to reports of the ‘lowballing’, or uneconomic tendering, that has supposedly become commonplace in auditing.


  • Dumster, n.
    N. Amer. (orig. U.S.).
    A very large container for the collection and conveyance of rubbish, a skip.

    1937 Official Gaz. (U.S. Patent Office) 2 Nov. 29/1 Dempster Brothers, Incorporated, Knoxville, Tenn... Dempster Dumpster. For hoisting units and detachable buckets and containers therefor. 1953 Amer. City June 212/1 (Advt.), A truck-mounted Dempster-Dumpster picking-up, hauling and then dumping a 10 cu.yd. Dempster-Dumpster Detachable Container. 1953 Official Gaz. (U.S. Patent Office) 29 Sept. 1107/1 Dempster Dumpster... For storage and transporting containers for use in carrying and dumping materialsnamely, refuse, trash, garbage, scrap, dirt, and rock. 1971 J. BALL First Team (1972) xvi. 248 One of the massive dumpsters used in the yard, a steel open-topped container used to collect scrap and waste material. 1987 T. WOLFE Bonfire of Vanities (1988) v. 121 They..threw him into a dumpster on a side street. 1989 R. BANKS Affliction xii. 166 He went beyond the lot a ways and parked it out of sight beside a big green Dempster Dumpster about fifty yards away.



  • Feel-good, n. and a.
    orig. U.S.
    A. n.
    1. ellipt. for Doctor Feelgood s.v. *DOCTOR n. 6 e. rare.

    1972 Newsweek 25 Dec. 29/3 The best way to guard against Feelgoods and charlatans is for the medical profession to keep its own house in order.


    2. a. [f. sense *B below.] A feeling of well-being, confidence, or ease; contentment; euphoria. b. A person or thing that induces such a feeling.

    1977 N.Y. Times Mag. 15 May (Late City ed.) 12/2 The chief exponents of psychic feelgood tend to come from Asia, California and the psychological sciences, no one of which has an impressive record at making people feel good. 1987 Washington Post 31 Mar. (Final ed.) C2/2 The era of fitness and feelgood has left a clear imprint on the unrelenting euphoria of these dances. 1992 Financial Post 30 Sept. I. 17 Without it, real recovery may be two years off. Even with electoral change in Washington, though, feelgood may take a year to seep north. 1993 Coloradoan (Fort Collins) 11 July E2/3 Boomer politicians..love fuzzy feelgoods.


    B. attrib. or as adj. That induces or seeks to induce (often unwarranted) feelings of well-being, confidence, or ease.

    1972 ‘F. STURGEON’ (title of comic book) Feelgood funnies. 1977 N.Y. Times Mag. 15 May (Late City ed.) 12/2 The latest aberration in the American pursuit of happiness is the feelgood movement. 1977 Washington Post 24 May A11/2 (heading) Test of Carter's ‘Feel Good’ Foreign Policy is Workability. 1990 R. BLOUNT First Hubby 21, I am not one of these feel-good shrinks... I am usually stern. 1991 Rolling Stone 14 Nov. 80/2 A feel-good New Agey spiel tailored to make yuppies feel better about themselves. 1995 Independent on Sunday 1 Jan. 22/4 Retailers and holiday tour operators have reported a surge of business in the week since Christmas, suggesting that the elusive feelgood facto may at last be breaking through.


    So feelgoodism n.; feelgoodist n.

    1977 N.Y. Times Mag. 15 May (Late City ed.) 12/4 Tom Wolfe observes that feelgoodism rests on an obsessive passion. Ibid., The feelgoodists are heretics. 1990 Nation 22 Oct. 437/2 The day looked ripe, all in all, for a little Democratic feel-goodism. 1993 Guardian 13 Aug. II. 6/1 Soft drugs have lately predominated on the dance scene, coinciding with the rise of eco-friendly feel-goodists such as the Stereos and Jamiroquai.


  • Clintonize, v.
    U.S. Pol. colloq.
    trans. (and intr. for refl.) To modify in accordance with or as a result of the policies of President Clinton. So Clintonization n.; Clintonized ppl. a.

    1992 Chicago Tribune 31 June 23/4 (heading) Brace yourselves: Our culture is about to be clintonized. Ibid., The Candidate's press secretary..was quoted in The New York Timesthat sure guide to clintonizationas saying that The Candidate makes it a point to re-read the meditations of Marcus Aurelius every couple of years. Ibid., The clintonized style will not be limited to the campaign and its hangers-on. 1992 U.S. News & World Rep. 2 Nov. 92/1 That's why investors really don't need to ‘Clintonize’ their portfolios. 1993 Times 12 Jan. 21/4 The government should study US experience... It could Clintonise: recovery now, financed by bigger defence cuts, and deficit reduction later. 1993 Observer 24 Jan. 19/8 A Clintonised wing of the Labour Party wants to import his language of political renewal on the cheap.


  • Bean-counter, n.
    colloq. (orig. and chiefly U.S.).
    An accountant, esp. one who compiles statistical records or accounts; also applied contempt. to financial planners or statisticians. Hence, a person excessively concerned with accounts or figures.

    1975 Interfaces Feb. 74 (title) The measure of M.S./O.R. applications; or, Let's hear it for the bean counters. 1982 N.Y. Times Mag. 14 Nov. 86/2 Tension between engineers and marketing specialists..and financial experts, derided as ‘bean counters,’ are [sic] endemic in the automobile business. 1986 Independent 29 Nov. 17/1 The highly respected beancounters at Price Waterhouse have failed to recognise that times are changing in the City. 1991 Observer 7 July 20/8, I think they are all parsimonious, cheese-paring, gut-scrimping bean-counters. 1992 Chicago Tribune 22 Dec. I. 1/5 Bill Clinton..angrily derided as ‘bean counters’ leaders of national women's groups who complained that he has nominated too few women to his administration.


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