Newsmakers ’09: Lingo

Kate Gosselin’s hair cut got its own phrase, as did Michelle Obama’s pipes

Reverse mullet:
Fashion faux pas of the season: the “reverse mullet”—named after the haircut that Kate Gosselin (of Jon & Kate Plus 8) got last spring. The asymmetrical bob—short and spiky at the crown and longer in the front—was widely mocked, notably by celebrity site, which dubbed it a “bi-level, Flock of Seagulls-humped-a-porcupine” weave.
Death panels:
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wrote a Facebook post falsely accusing Obama of trying to set up “death panels” to ration access to health care. She mused: “My baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide . . . whether [he is] worthy of health care.” Fear, it seems, is contagious. A later CNN poll found 41 per cent of Americans felt seniors could fall victim to “government panels.”
Toxic resumés:
That’s about all that bankers from Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. were left with when their firms went bust. Well, that and the millions in bonuses they accrued over the years, giving out “toxic loans” from “toxic banks” on “toxic streets” (think Wall).

Geek chic:
The arrival in Washington of Barack Obama and his advisers heralded the debut of geek chic. That led the Toronto Star to ponder whether our own eggiest egghead, Michael Ignatieff, might get “a boon” from the geek chic trend. Judging by recent opinion polls, maybe not.
Twitter revolution:
It was a 140-character call to arms! Protesters used Twitter to help coordinate anti-government revolts in Moldova (April) and Iran (June). So when Twitter operators said they were shutting down the site for maintenance during the Iranian protests, the U.S. State Department asked them to keep it running. Still, both revolutions failed.
Yarn bombing:
The latest in social disobedience refers to the covering of public works with knitting. The typical yarn bomber: a woman under 35 with a code name like Dropzitch or Incogknito. Two Canadians have authored a how-to guide: Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.
Right to bare arms:
First lady Michelle Obama has always exercised her right to bare arms. But she is not the only not-so-spring chicken showing tricep: Condoleezza Rice, Madonna and Kelly Ripa have also rolled up their sleeves. The trend is moving downward. When second lady Jill Biden stepped out in a short skirt, it prompted cries about her “right to bare legs.”
Caller ID users: beware! A Kansas woman answered her phone in the dead of night; a man said he was in her house, watching her. When the woman checked her caller ID, she saw the call was coming from inside. It wasn’t. The culprit used a spoofing service, which allowed him to disguise his number as hers. The service is legal in most areas.
Green shoots:
It’s getting cold ’round here. But forecasters still say they spot “green shoots” breaking through our barren economic landscape—“shoots” like slightly rising house prices. In March, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, said he detected “green shoots” of recovery. Later, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney gave a speech called “From Green Shoots to the Harvest.” StatsCan reported that Canada lost 43,000 jobs in October. So maybe those shoots are just weeds.
Imitation is the best form of flattery—so Bernie must be tickled pink. Since the Manhattan mogul’s Ponzi scheme was uncovered, other alleged mini-Madoffs, including Earl Jones and Allen Stanford, made names for themselves with what authorities believe are similar financially ruining programs. One investigator warns of “rampant Ponzimonium.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.