Subtext: A dictionary of Subway vernacular

RHYMES with crazy Lenore Skenazy  thumbnailBy LENORE SKENAY

To celebrate the opening of the Second Avenue Subway, we have commissioned the first New York Guide to Subway Jargon. Here it is — after 98 years in the making!

Sick passenger (noun): Patently lame excuse for lateness. “I meant to call you on your birthday, but there was a sick passenger on the train ahead of us.”

Zizmor (noun): A blemish or disfigurement that causes the stomach to lurch. “When I finally pulled the leech off my nose it left an oozing Zizmor.”

Hand shame (verb): To accidentally grab the pole where someone else is already grabbing it.

Kinky pinky (verb): To deliberately grab the pole where someone else is already grabbing it.

Hangry birds (noun, plural): Hunger pangs activated by the smell of someone else’s fried chicken. See also: “Colonel Knowledge” (knowing that someone on the train is carrying KFC, but not being visually able to locate the source).

Grampification (noun): The shock one feels upon being offered a seat by someone you thought was your age. (Fem: Grammafication)

Doork (noun): Dork who blocks the door without realizing it.

Joork (noun): Jerk who knows he’s blocking the door but keeps standing there, watching people maneuver around him.

Bunwich (noun): The very tight space between two other commuters.

Snudge (noun): A real nudge pretending to be inadvertent.

Train traffic ahead (noun): Colloquial for, “Brace yourself for bad news.” E.g., “The boss called a special meeting for 3 o’clock today. Could be train traffic ahead.”

Nod squad (noun, plural): Two or more passengers napping on the same bench.

Warm shoulder (noun): The shoulder a stranger has fallen asleep on.

Sniff & run (noun): An extremely under-populated car surrounded by extremely overcrowded cars.

Grudge budge (noun): The grimace made by a person who must move over an inch to make room for you.

Grudge buddies (noun, plural): The bonding emotion felt by former grudge budger and grudgee when they have to make room for someone else.

BBB (adj.): Short for “Baby Bump Blindness.” Failing to notice an 8-months-pregnant woman standing in front of you while you sit playing Candy Crush.

Blobstacle (noun): Escalator rider who stands on the left side, not moving.

ROTFL (noun): Anything “Rolling on the Floor Loudly,” e.g., an empty Snapple bottle.

Point and shoo (verb): To indicate a wet or sticky spot on the seat before someone sits down.

New natives (noun, plural): People who got on just one stop before you, but act as if they own the seat.

L-and-back (noun): A hipster. Literally, someone who takes the L back and forth to their coding job.

Tooth squad (noun, plural): Individuals dedicated to blacking out the teeth of smiling news teams on subway ads.

Bubbleheads (noun, plural): Individuals who add word and thought bubbles to posters, usually referencing the president, police, or private parts.

NJ devils (noun, plural): Young people from New Jersey who drink in Greenwich Village then add devil horns to PATH train posters before vomiting and heading home.

Box shock (adj.): To be suddenly awakened by a boom box and someone’s sneakers swinging near your nose.

Family dollar (verb): To give a single dollar to a subway performer or performers on behalf of all the members of your family.

Post-a-boo (verb): To sneak a peek at your neighbor’s Post.

Peek-a-News (verb): To sneak a peek at your neighbor’s Daily News.

A.M. mayhem (noun): Being offered an A.M. New York by three or more people on your way into the train.

Suspicious package (noun): Male standing too close.

Second Ave. (verb): To take longer than anyone thought possible. “I ordered my burger at 4 and they Second Avenued it at 11!”

Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker, founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and a contributor at Reason.com.

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