You know the feeling: You notice some everyday phenomenon — something that always happens — and search for the word that defines it. Only to realize — no such word exists.
Word maven Barbara Wallraff rustles up what she calls these "word fugitives" in her column in the The Atlantic Monthly, and in a new book, Word Fugitives. Her readers supply both their ideas for word fugitives — and the words sought.
"I really like word fugitives that relate to people's everyday lives," Wallraff says. "There are a lot of technological fugitives. We have names for the things, but now we need words for what we do with them."
Reader Allan Crossman, of Oakland, Calif., asked: "I'm looking for a term that describes the momentary confusion experienced by everyone in the vicinity when a cell phone rings and no one is sure if it is his/hers or not."
Wallraff say that with ring tones, "you'd think that that would be history even by now. But no, people still experience 'pandephonium.'" Or is it ringchronicity, ringxiety — or even fauxcellarm?