The Departures Modern Glossary November 2011

Bendik Kaltenborn

Words that define us now.


A shortened form of the phrase “Oh my God!,” used to express
surprise or incredulity, frequently used in e-mail, texts and IMs.

“OMG” is not quite the recent barbarism people think it is: The
Oxford English Dictionary, which added it last March, dates “OMG”
back to at least 1917, when a British Admiral, one J.A.F. Fisher, used it in
a letter to Winston Churchill. Not a terribly formal correspondence, it begins
with “Dear Winston” and ends with “Shower it on the Admiralty!”
But it counts as a source nonetheless.

Flash Mob

Random individuals performing a mass act of whimsy; also, riotous youths
who use social media to coordinate criminal acts.

Originally “flash mob” referred to a group of strangers who, in
response to a text or an e-mail, showed up at a prearranged location to perform
a techno version of Swan Lake or the like. But the term has experienced
a semantic upheaval of late, with reports of flash mobs of teenage hooligans
using Twitter to arrange robberies of convenience stores and gas stations.

Deep Web

Internet content not typically found by standard search engines.

It’s been estimated that the portion of the Internet not searched in
a typical query is 400 to 550 times larger than the portion that is. There are
many reasons these pages don’t come up—they are password-protected,
for example, or they may not be linked to any other sites. As with all the best
“deep” terms, such as “deep-six,” “deep throat”
and “deep-vein thrombosis,” “deep web” has an air of
intrigue and danger about it. But there is no reason to believe that this enormous
vein of content contains a greater degree of exciting information than the dreck
typically found on the surface web.


The production of pharmaceuticals using genetically modified livestock
or crops.

“Biopharming” isn’t some futuristic Frankenstein method of
creating vaccines from cows’ milk or drugs from ears of corn—it
exists now. All reservations about such practices aside, it’s hard to
deny that “biopharming” is more attractive than its fellow “ph”-based
neologisms, like “phishing” or “phat.”

Climate Refugee

A person displaced by ongoing climate change.

No matter which euphemism we use for the phenomenon—“global warming”
becomes “climate disruption” becomes “climate change”—the
earth’s dramatically changing weather patterns have caused a number of
people to pack up and move, fleeing the tornadoes/droughts/hurricanes threatening
their home. They are now known by the decidedly uneuphemistic term “climate