Let Your Austin Powers Combine

December 17, 2007

It is a well known fact that the recent UN Bali council was sidetracked by the US and no significant progress was made to resolve the global issues at hand. It is less well known that the most divisive issue was the proper way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Nowhere is this more felt than UK-US relations, where the special relationship grows ever testier, perhaps going out not with a bang…but a whimper. Indeed, how else can we explain the discrepancy between our two countries’ responses to this momentous occasion, how else can we explain the fact that while nary an anniversary edition DVD is released in the US, the OED has decided to include two Austin Powers words in its December revisions?

The two words in question are “fembot, n” and “shagadelic, adj.” The OED defines “fembot” as “A robot resembling a woman in appearance. Also in extended use: a woman characterized as a robot,” being formed by the combination of fem and bot. The earliest reference to the word is 1976. None of the quotes are taken from Austin, a mistake given its probable influence on the spread of the term. After all, were “fembots” ever so memorable before Cindy Margolis? The “shagadelic” entry, on the other hand, does not attempt to hide its origins. The OED states clearly that it was popularized in Austin and all the quotes provided are post-Powers.

Also added to the OED this month were “armchair quarterback” and its verb form, “armchair quarterbacking.” Both were added as sub-entries of “armchair,” and neither are derived from the horse racing term, “armchair ride,” a smooth and easy victory. The best new edition, however, may be “fiend, v.” Meaning, “intr. To have a strong desire or craving for,” the word is derived from dope/sex fiend and its first quote is from Erik B and Rakim. Sadly, none of these terms were the staff featured additions. Yet more proof that Yesterday’s Salad speaks for the subaltern?

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