A glossary of the modern condition
Increasingly popular literary genre in which the authors congratulate themselves for their triumphs over substance abuse.
adult temper tantrum
No longer the exclusive domain of small children, the temper tantrum is now acceptable grown-up behavior, and not just for athletes and celebrities; some management experts actually offer tips on how to lose your temper at the office for maximum advantage.
Age of Anxiety, the
Appellation bestowed on the 20th century by the poet W.H. Auden in his book-length poem of the same title, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948.
The uncontrollable urge to affect a British accent, most often afflicting celebrities (Madonna, Faye Dunaway, Sammy Davis Jr., Kathleen Turner, Jessye Norman) and, for some reason, Reform rabbis.
Psychobabble for 'dumb mistakes.'
The anguish of envy.
Loud talking on cell phones in public places by people with the apparent neurotic need to invade their own privacy.
The burgeoning 'clutter management' movement has produced the clutter buddy, a recovering clutterer (formerly 'pack rat') who supports one actively obsessed with the accumulation of unnecessary objects, and 'clutter clinics' where clutterers learn to avoid such pitfalls as 'churning' -- moving clutter from one place to another instead of throwing it away.
Romantic notion that creativity is a product of repression and that great artists are likely to be mentally unbalanced.
Hypochondria resulting from seeing one's symptoms on a medical Web site.
A strength that used to be a weakness.
Maddening tendency of experts to raise the bar on health-habit standards just when you thought you were doing okay, as when the U.S. government increased from half an hour to an hour the minimum amount of daily exercise necessary for optimum cardiovascular health.
Traditionally, remorse over having done something wrong; self-reproach for some moral failure. Now, a chronic, free-floating, unarticulated malaise, a festering sense of existential worthlessness. And then you feel guilty for feeling guilty.
Pleasurable hatred of someone or something, especially annoying celebrities or powerful organizations.
Someone with a good education but no common sense.
Internet addiction disorder
Term coined by Ivan Goldberg in 1996 as a parody of America's obsession with addiction, but now used earnestly to describe people who are unable to control the amount of time they spend online engaging in chat rooms, auction shopping, pornography, gambling, day trading, etc.
Old-fashioned word for intense pleasure or happiness.
One who helps others make important decisions, sort of a personal trainer of the psyche. Not surprisingly, an occupation invented in California.
A solitary person judged odd by nearly everyone else, even though most of the great achievements in music, art, literature, philosophy, and science result from quiet contemplation by loners.
myth of Sisyphus, the
Sisyphus was condemned by Zeus to push a huge boulder up a steep hill forever. Every time the boulder neared the top, it would roll back down and Sisyphus would have to start all over again. Thus, an apt metaphor for the human condition.
What we believe we require for physical or emotional health. Usage note: Often combined with 'my' but rarely with 'your.'
Mute resignation to a life blighted by the grinding conformity of postindustrial society.
Fear of not having enough money for retirement (especially prevalent among baby boomers).
Once forbidden -- or at least discouraged -- it is now the Greatest Love of All.
tucke des objekts, die
Literally, 'the malice of things,' the sneaking dread that machines are biding their time until they can turn on us and take over the world.
Highly sought after but largely hypothetical state of tip-top physical, mental, and spiritual health resulting from proper diet, regular exercise, and good mental hygiene.
Excerpted from the book Encyclopedia Neurotica by Jon Winokur, with a foreword by Richard Lewis. ©2005 by Jon Winokur. Reprinted with permission from St. Martin's Press, LLC.