Suburban Dictionary: First Chapter
by Timothy Fay
18: The key number when giving gifts at a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. Cash gifts should be in multiples of eighteen, such as $36, $54, or perhaps $180.
201(k): Result of frequent withdrawals from someone’s 401(k) retirement plan.
420: Term for pot smoking. Also a designated time (4:20 p.m.) when some smoke weed. The cannabis equivalent of beer thirty or happy hour. Also signifies the date of April 20th, which some proclaim as “national cannabis day.” April 20th is nearly considered a holiday in some parts of California.
B-9: The parking space number (or room number) you should opt for at a hospital, especially if you’re getting a “suspicious lump” checked out.
R2D2: Nickname for a short, round person. Named for the resourceful droid of Star Wars fame. Filmmakers say the name sprang from “reel 2, dialog track 2,” later shortened to R2D2.
#: Hashtag. Also called an octothorpe. Known as a pound sign in telephone lingo. A hashtag with a word or phrase, without spaces, highlights a (supposedly) trendy topic. Example: #girlscoutcookies.
… : Ellipsis. These three dots, mid-sentence or mid-text, mean that part of the message must be left to the imagination. Example: She went over to his place. They talked … She took the bus home the next morning.
- A -
abandominium: A vacant or abandoned property. Also refers to a building taken over by squatters.
abandoned swimming pool: For neighborhood skateboarders, an instant skate park. Just remove water.
ABC: 1. American-born Chinese. A person of Chinese blood who grows up with a strong knowledge of American culture and little or no “accent” when speaking English. See also: Banana, Chinglish, Chiwi. 2. “Apply Butt in Chair.” Cajoling expression for anyone tackling a big project. 3. “Always Be Closing.” Slogan of salesmen/saleswomen.
abstinence: A useful word in the suburbs, which means avoiding sexual activity or other mischief. Reasons for abstinence range from religious or well-being considerations to simply being unlucky. See also: dry spell; lackanookie.
actually: Term that can denote surprise that someone succeeded. Example: “I’ve learned not to tell my mother-in-law that her cooking actually tasted good.”
Adolf Hitler: Golf slang for having to take two shots in the bunker (sand trap).
adorkable: Dorky yet adorable.
A F: As f**k. Example: “These cronuts are good A F.”
See also: cronut.
a few fries short of a happy meal: Cuckoo; stupid.
afraid of the dark: Golf term for a ball that stops just short of the hole and refuses to drop in.
aging hipsters: Term preferred by some over “old folks,” or “senior citizens.”
AirGarage: Company modeled after Airbnb, but for renting parking spaces rather than homes. Homeowners near college campuses and other venues earn cash from customers wanting to ditch their cars temporarily.
Air-conditioning the whole neighborhood: Traditional scolding given by moms and dads to a kid who leaves the door open. Often heard as “Are you trying to air-condition the whole neighborhood?” In reality, when you run a heat pump in the winter, you are trying to air-condition the whole neighborhood. See also: mansplanation.
Example: Mom yelling at son: "Are you trying to air condition the whole neighborhood?"
Teenage son: "Yeah, Mom. I thought it was time to give back to the neighborhood."
Alaska: The largest state in the US. The state does indeed have suburbs. Just ask the residents of the Anchorage suburb of Wasilla, who elected Sarah Palin as mayor. Palin would go on to become governor of Alaska. She also was nominated for US vice president in the 2008 election.
alcohol: An intoxicating hydrocarbon compound commonly found in the burbs. You can’t say the word suburban without saying “bourbon.” The word “alcohol” is of Arabic origin, and it means “the essence.”
al desko: Eating at your desk; a play on the word “alfresco.”
algos: Algorithms. Formulas based on customer behavior that websites use to maximize company profits.
Example: Co-worker # 1: “I just tried outsmarting a travel website, and I found nothing but shitty prices.”
Co-worker # 2: “Can’t fool the algos.”
All juice, no seeds: Motto of men who’ve had a vasectomy.
“All adults must be accompanied by children.”: Humorous inversion of the usual warning: one theater chain notes that at children’s movies, adults must be accompanied by children.
aloof: Detached from those around you. An indispensable word in the suburbs. Example: The dad in the original 1964 Mary Poppins movie is sometimes described as uptight, but is probably better described as aloof. See also: avoidance.
“Alrighty then!”: Expression used to denote awkward surprise or embarrassment. See also: AWK.
Amish-ish: A person who observes some, but not all, aspects of Amish life. Can also apply to events, such as an “Amish-ish” wedding, in which both Amish and “English” (the Amish word for non-Amish folks) mingle awkwardly.
Anaheim, California: Los Angeles suburb, home of the “Mouse House,” Disneyland. See also: Disneyverse; Orange Curtain.
“And how!”: Expression meaning “And then some!” Example: Nine-year old son: “Dad, did you play football in high school?”
Dad: “And how!”
“And I get that.”: Expression used to (attempt to) elevate someone’s opinion to fact. Example: “If (blank) is elected, he will save the country. And I get that!”
ankle bracelet: Euphemism for an ankle monitor, a tracking device worn by those under house arrest or worn by other detainees. Not exactly a fashion accessory. Example:
Actor Paul Rudd’s character in the 2018 film Ant-Man and the Wasp sported an ankle bracelet.
annuity-centric: World view of some insurance agents, in which nearly any conversation turns toward annuities.
anti-romantic comedy: Comedy that involves romance but doesn’t have a happy ending.
aracial: Someone who is “raceless” and seems to avoid getting pigeonholed into any particular racial group.
“Are you planning on getting out of the business?”: Snarky response sometimes given when a business owner (such as a restaurant owner) asks you to post a review on Yelp or similar websites.
Armenians: One of the first so-called ethnic groups to venture into the suburbs. Armenians in Southern California have been noted for their success in business as well as for their baklava (a pastry often made of paper-thin dough, nuts, and honey). Example: Do yourself a favor and never say around an Armenian that baklava is a “Greek” dish.
ASMR: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. A mouthful describing any event, especially an auditory experience, that triggers a tingle on your spine or commands heightened attention. YouTube has countless “ASMR” videos. A common example: an ear massage video, in which the masseuse also whispers into the mic.
assclown, ass clown: A stupid jerk; a clueless person. A term often used in the ever-popular 1999 movie Office Space.
Astroturfing: The often-deceptive practice of giving an organization or a message the appearance of having grassroots, Joe Blow support. Large corporations sometimes try this when trying to pass, or block, a referendum proposal. See also: reeferendum.
attractive nuisance: Legal term describing a real estate feature, such as a swimming pool, that is a potential hazard yet lures children and others. See also: hot mess.
au pair: A nanny or domestic servant from overseas, usually a female in her late teens to late twenties. Au pairs use the arrangement as a chance to travel and are considered au pair (on par in French) or equal to the host family.
auntrepreneur: An aunt or any older woman who is talented in business affairs.
avoidance: Popular suburban method for “dealing” with conflict: by simply evading it (or attempting to do so).
avuncular: Someone who seems like uncle material, in appearance or behavior. See also: Dutch uncle.
Awful House: Snooty nickname for Waffle House chain of diner restaurants, popular in the southeastern US. Some claim you can judge the severity of hurricanes by noting whether Waffle House locations (usually stalwarts) are closed due to inclement weather.
AWK: Shortened version of “awkward”, often used when responding to accidentally shared text messages. See also: Alrighty then.
- B -
“Baby up in this bitch”: The 2020s replacement for “Baby on board” stickers on SUVs and mini-vans. Welcome to the '20s.
back end: Term used in business settings to help steer the conversation away from detailed explanations. Example: “Sorry about the excessive fees. We’ll take care of that on the back end.” See also: Don’t worry about it.
back into a mattress: To have sex; to prepare to have sex. A vintage term for a vintage activity.
backronym: An “acronym” explanation of a word origin that someone invents, long after a word was developed. For instance, word-historians say that one explanation for “posh,” “port out, starboard home” was cleverly invented long after the word “posh” was common. Reportedly “posh” originated in 1800s England, referring to a nattily-dressed person.
Example: SABENA, the now defunct Belgian airline, was sometimes the subject of a snooty backronym: Such A Bad Experience, Never Again.
“Back up.”: Expression meaning “Excuse me, but I strongly object to something you just said.”
Example: Guy at a bar: “I think Game of Thrones is sort of stupid.”
Woman at a bar: “Umm, back up!”
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