Mark Peters

Mark Peters has published language-related articles in Chicago Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Columbia Journalism Review, Esquire, Mental Floss, Nerve, New Scientist, and Psychology Today. He writes the Jabberwocky column for Babble and the blog Wordlustitude. His book Yada Yada Doh! 111 of the Most Successful Television Words is forthcoming from Marion Street Press in 2008.

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. Photo: iStockphoto 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 history of tree-hugging, and the future of name-calling

Anyone who ever sympathized with Eric Cartman‘s declaration, “I hate hippies! … I want to kick ‘em in the nuts” probably finds the word “tree-hugger” useful — and plenty of other people dig the word, too. Maybe you’d rather be a vile SUV-cuddler? Photo: iStockphoto At this point, it’s hard to imagine the vocabulary of environmentalism or insults without “tree-hugger” and “tree-hugging.” And these ol’ chestnuts continue to spawn variations: tree-huggitude, tree-huggery, tree-huggage, tree-huggy, tree-huggish, non-tree-hugging, and treehugtastic were all google-able by this intrepid reporter. The terms often punctuate news stories too. Last month, in The Financial Times, Paul Miles …

Cars pollute the dictionary too

I don’t want to rock your world too severely, but it’s come to my attention that cars cause problems. If you’re not the U.S. government, you may have heard about this global-warming thing, caused in part by driving. There’s also a metric truckload of other health and environmental nightmares caused by monoxides, dioxides, hydrocarbons, and other yummy emissions. Meanwhile, our car-propelled reliance on fossil fuels keeps us hooked on Mideast oil like some kind of red, white, and blue crack-smoking eagle. On top of all that, finding a parking space is a mother. But there’s a lesser-known victim of car …

Bush accentuates nuke positives, inspires malefactors everywhere

George W. Bush developed an interesting habit this year when he talked about energy. In his speeches, words like “oil,” “coal,” and “natural gas” shivered in the dark with no adjectives, while “nuclear power” consistently got two. Bush used this spiffy phrase in, among other places, his State of the Union address and a spring press conference. And who knows? At this very moment, he may well be spooning with Laura and seductively whispering the four words every First Lady or nuclear plant owner yearns to hear: “safe, clean nuclear power.” Darth evader. Image: Peter Cook. I don’t know about …

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