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The Oxford Dictionary of New Words

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New Scientist 1 July 1989, p. 43


transitive verb (Lifestyle and Leisure)

In US slang, to cook or heat (food) in a microwave oven.

Etymology: A transferred use of the slang verb nuke, which since the late sixties has meant ' to attack or destroy with nuclear weapons'. The transfer is explained by the fact that

both nuclear bombs and microwave ovens generate electromagnetic radiation (although of very different kinds!).

'This potato', he said listlessly, 'is undernuked.' Half a pulse later and it was dropped back onto his plate like a spent cartridge. Now it was overnuked.

Martin Amis London Fields (1989; paperback ed. 1990), p. 400

It was a perfect night to nuke some popcorn and curl up in front of a Duraflame.

New Yorker 11 Dec. 1989, p. 14

numeric keypad

(Science and Technology) see keypad

14.8 nyaff...


see naff°


(Science and Technology) see nibble


15.1offender's tag...

offender's tag

(People and Society) (Science and Technology) see tag°


noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)

Driving on dirt tracks and other unmetalled surfaces as a sport or leisure activity; also known more fully as off-road racing.

Etymology: Formed from the adjective off-road (which dates from the early sixties) and the action-noun suffix -ing, perhaps by abbreviating off-road racing.

History and Usage: Off-roading originated on the West coast of the US in the late sixties, when recreational vehicles such as

the beach buggy were first in fashion among young people. From California it spread across the US as a more serious sport, and from the late seventies and early eighties was increasingly practised in an organized way outside the US as well. An off-roader is both a vehicle used in off-roading and a person who takes part in it (but see also mountain bike). Although off-roading began as off-road racing, racing is not an essential element of the sport, which focuses more on the enjoyment of driving away from the traffic and pollution of metalled roads.

A serious off-roader is more interested in what a vehicle can do once its wheels start rolling.

Outdoor Life (Northeast US ed.) Oct. 1980, p. 29

Unsurfaced roads...are becoming muddy death traps for other countryside users as off-roading becomes an increasingly organised leisure activity.

Daily Telegraph 13 Jan. 1988, p. 25

The new all-drive platform is aimed at the rustbelt market, not at serious off-roaders, so the MPV 4WD doesn't sit six feet off the ground or ride on giant knobby tires.

Car & Driver Sept. 1989 p. 131

15.2 oilflation...


(Business World) see kidflation

15.3 oink...

oink (People and Society) see DINK

15.4 on-and-on rap...

on-and-on rap

(Music) (Youth Culture) see rap

onsell transitive verb Also written on-sell (Business World)

To sell (an asset, especially one recently acquired) to a third party, usually for profit.

Etymology: Formed from the phrasal verb sell on, by converting the adverb on into the prefix on-. This process of converting a phrasal verb into a prefixed one is quite common in verbs used in business: compare onlend (a formation of the seventies), outplace (see outplacement), and outsource.

History and Usage: This is a piece of financial jargon of the late seventies and eighties that has acquired some limited currency outside the financial markets as well.

The Euro CP dealers, in bidding for paper, will most likely remain exposed to interest rate movements overnight, since they cannot onsell it until the following morning.

Euromoney (Supplement) Jan. 1986, p. 79

We will buy some works by contemporary artists this year and may on-sell them if it means we can buy some better examples.

Business Review Weekly 19 Feb. 1988, p. 98

on your bike see bike

15.5 optical disc...

optical disc

(Science and Technology) see CD

option card°

(Business World) see card°

option cardý

(Science and Technology) see cardý

15.6 Oracle...

Oracle noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology)

In the UK, the trade mark of a teletext system (see tele-) originally operated by the IBA.

Etymology: A figurative use of oracle, based on the popular transferred sense of the phrase consult the oracle, 'to seek information from an authority': the purpose of the service is to provide information on the television screen.

History and Usage: Oracle was introduced in the mid seventies and is now a standard option on most new television sets in the UK. The name has been used in other trade marks, especially in information technology.

Ceefax and Oracle are both teletext systems. At present teletext is limited to the amount of information that may be transmitted on the two available lines on a television screen, but it is a free service.

Bookseller 29 Mar. 1980, p. 1430

orbital adjective (Youth Culture)

In British youth slang, of a party (especially an acid-house

party: see acid house): taking place beside or near the M25 London orbital motorway.

Etymology: The word is taken from the official name of the M25, London orbital motorway.

History and Usage: Orbital parties were a phenomenon of 1989-90, taking the place of warehouse parties in popularity among London's youth. They probably represent a passing fashion.

If you've been to any of the major house parties, you'd know them by sight, if not by name. Their multiscreen projections of slides and film loops have featured in orbital parties, at the Astoria and Heaven, in Rifat Ozbek's 1988/89 fashion shows, and at Energy's recent Docklands all-dayer.

The Face June 1990, p. 18

organic adjective (Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure)

Of food: produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc., by adding only organic material to the soil.

Etymology: Organic in this sense was originally applied to the fertilizers themselves, signifying that they were derived from living matter, unlike the inorganic chemical fertilizers. The adjective was then applied to the method of farming in which organic fertilizers were used (from about the early forties onwards), and finally to the produce of this method of farming. A term such as organic vegetables therefore represents two stages of abbreviation from the more accurate but impossibly cumbersome vegetables grown using a method of agriculture employing only organic materials. Such vegetables are organic in the sense that they contain no traces of the inorganic chemicals often used in vegetable production, but the term organic vegetables rightly strikes some people as a tautology, since all living things are organic.

History and Usage: Organic was first applied to the produce of organic farming methods in the seventies, when environmental concerns began to gain a place in the public consciousness. However, organic produce was considerably more expensive than

that produced by modern methods and for some time it was considered to be the province of health-food freaks (an attitude which had prevailed in developed countries when organic farming was first tried in the forties as well). However, demand for organic produce grew markedly in the eighties, as did awareness of the meaning of the term; this was largely because of the success of the green movement and growing public concern about the potentially harmful effects of agricultural chemicals (fed

by such scares as the one over Alar in apples). By the end of the eighties organically grown fruit and vegetables were

regularly on sale alongside those produced by mainstream farming techniques, and it was even possible to buy organic meat (that

is, meat from animals that had been fed only on organic produce).

High-tech greens who like the way microwaves cook their organic veg could find the new foodprobe...worth investigating.

Practical Health Spring 1990, p. 9

More recently, the desire for organically grown, pesticide-free produce has created a new kind of city garden where food plants are mixed with flowers.

Garbage Nov.-Dec. 1990, p. 36

organizer noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)

Something which helps a person to organize (objects, appointments, papers, etc.); a container which is arranged in sections or compartments so as to make systematic organization of the contents easier.

Etymology: A sense shift involving abbreviation of a longer phrase; an organizer would normally be a person who organizes, but here it is the object which helps a person to organize, that is, a product for the organizer. No doubt the manufacturers of these products would be happy for organizer in this sense still to be interpreted as though the organization were done for its owner by the product, but as Stephanie Winston has pointed out in her book Getting Organized (1978):

You're bound to be disappointed if you buy lots of boxes, containers, and 'organizers' in the wistful hope that they will somehow make you organized. They won't.

History and Usage: Products described as organizers (often with a preceding word describing the thing to be organized, as, for example, desk organizer) started to appear on the market in the late sixties. The fashion for organizers in the office was followed in the late seventies by the idea of the organizer bag,

a handbag with many different compartments and pockets. In the eighties, when getting organized was synonymous with getting on, organizer was often used as a short form for personal organizer, the generic term for sectioned notebooks like the Filofax which became so fashionable in the early eighties for organizing one's life. Perhaps trying to jump on the bandwagon, advertisers

tended to overwork the word organizer in the mid and late eighties: any piece of furniture with shelves or compartments, or even a simple box file was enthusiastically transformed into an essential organizer by the copywriters. The word organizer is often used attributively in naming these products (following the model of organizer bag), in organizer unit etc.

Our gift to you--an organizer unit to store your player and discs.

New Yorker 4 June 1984, p. 1

It has one shelf and two small plastic 'organisers' to hold all your baby's toiletries.

Practical Parenting Apr. 1988, p. 8

The desk-sized professional organizer now makes up 10 per cent of sales, and a small pocket organizer has been launched.

The Times 7 Apr. 1989, p. 25

15.7 OTE...

OTE abbreviation (Business World)

Short for on-target (or on-track) earnings, a level of pay at which a person is earning to full potential by receiving a basic salary and commission representing top performance.

Etymology: The initial letters of On-Target (or On-Track) Earnings.

History and Usage: OTE began to appear as an abbreviation in job advertisements in the second half of the eighties; it is

really a shorter and euphemistic way of saying 'earning potential with commission'. Unlike performance-related pay (PRP), it is dependent upon the individual's performance rather than the company's.

Computers. œ30,000 Basic. œ60,000 OTE.

Sunday Telegraph 1 July 1990, section A, p. 16

otherly abled

(People and Society) see abled

OTT abbreviation (Youth Culture)

In slang, short for over the top: (especially of a person, or a person's appearance, manner, opinions, etc.) extreme, exaggerated, outrageous; characterized by excess.

Etymology: The initial letters of Over The Top; this phrase began in the sixties as a colloquial verbal phrase go over the top, 'to go beyond reasonable limits' and was itself based on

the army metaphor of going over the top of the trenches and into battle.

History and Usage: Over the top began to be used as an adjectival phrase among young and middle-aged people in the early eighties and was soon being abbreviated to OTT, even in print. It is mentioned as a Sloane Ranger expression in the Official Sloane Ranger Handbook (1982), but is just as likely to be found in the popular music papers or youth magazines as in writing for or by the upper classes. Anything that seems overdone or offends a person's sense of proportions and propriety can be described as OTT, but it is used especially of people or of things in which a human agent has been at work to

stir up (sometimes only mock-serious) outrage.

I think that's puritanical. It's totally over the top.

Green Magazine Dec. 1989, p. 38

Fans will be happy enough to get half a dozen previously unreleased tracks, including a typically OTT Watkins offering.

Folk Roots Aug. 1990, p. 35

15.8 out...


transitive verb (People and Society)

To expose the homosexuality of (a prominent or famous person); to force (someone) to come 'out of the closet'. Also as an

action noun outing, the practice or policy of making such a revelation, especially as a political move on the part of gay rights activists; agent noun outer.

Etymology: Formed by turning the adverb out (as in the phrase come out (that is, out of the closet), meaning 'to make public one's homosexuality') into a verb. The transitive verb out already existed in a number of more general senses.

History and Usage: The practice of outing, also known as tossing, was first brought to public attention in the US in

early 1990, when public revelations about the sexual orientation of some famous people were used as a political tactic by gay rights activists; they were concerned mainly about lack of support for the victims of Aids, even among those who were closet gays. The word out and its derivatives very quickly

acquired a currency among gay groups in the UK as well; wherever it was practised, outing caused considerable controversy. The

New York gay magazine OutWeek became particularly associated with outing, revealing the homosexuality of a number of prominent film stars and public figures who, it said, were betraying the cause of gay rights by remaining silent.

Instead of tossing or outing this congressman,

I...called to his attention the hypocrisy that he had been legislating against gays.

Los Angeles Times 22 Mar. 1990, section E, p. 23

This [i.e. Aids] is the new factor that gives outing

both its awful appeal and its power and, most precisely, exposes the motives of the outers as terrorism.

Sunday Times 6 May 1990, section C, p. 6

outlaw technologist

(Lifestyle and Leisure) see cyberpunk


noun Also written out-placement (Business World)

Assistance in finding a new job after redundancy, given to an employee by the employer making him or her redundant or by a special outside service; hence, euphemistically, the act of making someone redundant, 'dehiring'.

Etymology: Formed by adding the prefix outto placement; placing (a person) out rather than within one's own staff.

History and Usage: Outplacement has been a standard term in the US business world since the early seventies, but only became current in the UK in the mid eighties. The verb outplace has a similar history to outplacement; derivatives such as the adjective outplaced and the agent noun outplacer (a person or firm that does the outplacement) arose in the early eighties.

If you ever do get canned...you might count yourself lucky to be placed in the hands of the outplacers.

Forbes 19 Jan. 1981, p. 77

Career counselling--or 'outplacement', as the service is called when it is pitched instead at companies that are trying to chop senior executives as mercifully as possible.

Sunday Times 26 July 1987, p. 69

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