An eco-lexical eco-spasm for the modern eco-age
With apologies to “green” and “enviro,” there’s no doubt “eco” is the supreme prefix of the environmental movement.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary — the Bible of the English language, only with fewer lepers and begettings — “eco” detached from “ecology” as early as 1969, when examples of “eco-activist,” “eco-catastrophe,” and “ecocide” can be found. The OED also has subentries for “eco-art,” “ecodoom,” “ecofreak,” “eco-label,” “eco-nut,” “eco-raider,” “eco-terrorism,” and “eco-warrior,” but of course, these are just the tip of the eco-berg. Grist has been the home of many others, including “eco-troubadour,” “eco-spasm,” “eco-sin,” “mega-eco-economics,” and “not-so-eco-doodad.”
Mostly, the proliferation of these words can be considered a good thing. If people weren’t increasingly eco-friendly, they wouldn’t dream up eco-museums, eco-villages, and eco-bras while worrying about eco-concerns and eco-nightmares. Even the existence of slurs such as “eco-obsessive,” “eco-Nazi,” and “eco-fundamentalism” can be considered a good sign in this sense: eco-worriers have got eco-hostiles pretty worried too.
Many of these words will make jaded linguists reach for the brain bleach and an ear funnel. Yet word diversity — while not quite as crucial as species diversity — is similarly valuable. After all, not every species is an adorable, skittering chinchilla or noble, spear-wielding chimp, but where would we be without gazillions of sea slug species?
Though the following words range from barely tolerable to gloriously pointless, they must be preserved for future generations. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, these are some of the most preposterous, distasteful, entertaining — and, in all cases, real — uses of the eco- prefix.
Don’t worry, this is safe for work. “Eco-porn” is a cousin of metaphorical expressions like “wedding porn,” “electoral porn,” “wine porn,” “gastro-porn,” and “9-11 popcorn porn.” Paul McFedries’ Word Spy defines eco-porn as “A corporate advertisement that extols the company’s environmental record or policies,” usually with lush natural images — and most likely a boatload of hypocrisy as well.
The first Ecobot was a seemingly harmless, battery-free, sugar-eating creation of British scientists that looked kind of like a fire alarm (the bot, not the Brits). Ecobot 2, their second unholy creation, had a pseudo-stomach that fed on dead flies and rotten apples. Both Ecobots were able to perform phototaxis — “moving toward the light” — which is what I fear we may all be doing soon if these fly-eating toasters continue to evolve. (I’ve clearly watched too much Battlestar Galactica.)
In good news for the snitched-upon, ratted-out, and stool-pigeoned, tattletales are now compostable. Well, sort of. This word became necessary after the Bush administration (in September 2006) reversed precedent and took away whistleblower rights from the Clean Air Act. So if an EPA employee eco-snitches on the government, that employee could be fired and, the way things are going, probably waterboarded without a trial.
There’s not a fouler corporate buzzword than “synergy.” I once had a co-worker who used the word with such frequent, punishing regularity that I suspect he was raised on PowerPoint presentations and cappuccinos rather than Dr. Seuss and mother’s milk. Everything he, I, or my uncle did created synergy. Meetings had synergy. Lunch had synergy. Paper clips had synergy. Taken literally, ecosynergy is likely a fine thing, but if I see this or another variation of synergy (What’s next? Franken-synergy? Choco-synergy?) one more time I fear my self-inflicted lobotomy will have little synergy.
If you cross the eco-mafia, you’ll just wish you were sleeping with the fishes: you’re more likely to nap with the hazardous ooze. As previously discussed in Grist, the enviro-mafioso forgo wholesome, traditional revenue sources like gambling and prostitution in favor of dumping and illegal construction. Their slogan: Take the cannoli, leave the toxic waste.
In London, the Recycle Western Riverside group’s eco-elves talk about recycling door-to-door, on the tube, and at malls. Though the eco-elves are doing the world a solid, I don’t look forward to future Christmases that may bring eco-reindeer, eco-eggnog, or an eco-Christ child.
Here’s a word with a noble purpose and a less-than-musical sound. Econolomics is defined on Word Spy as “Sustainable living through environmentally friendly business practices.” Who could argue with that? Like ecosynergy, econolomics is beneficial. But can’t we find a name for it that isn’t so reminiscent of high colonics?
If the word “metrosexual” makes you want to remove your own eyeballs with a spork, you’d better hide the silverware. Ecosexuals, apparently, are hip young urbanites who care about recycling as much as hair products. Instead of man-hands and eating peas one at a time, their deal-breakers are non-recyclers and anti-eco-deodorant. Did the world really need another smarmy buzzword?
Eco-kill me now.
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