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Fighting Words

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Months of poring over "A Nation Challenged" have paid off: You know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, Rumsfeld and Stufflebeem. But attentive reading will get you only so far, because on the home front, the language of war is changing faster than a mullah fleeing Tora Bora. And who can say what the verbal landscape will look like in even a few days? (After all, when was the last time you said Scud?) Herewith, a mini-lexicon:

born-again Muslim \ noun: a person newly preoccupied with all things Islam. "On the subway, a kid had Cat Stevens blaring out of his headphones, a woman was buried in a history of the Taliban, and a guy was reading the Koran," says Allen Pearl, editor of The Pearl Files, a gossip newsletter. "I was surrounded by born-again Muslims!"

burka \ noun: the significant other you don't really like but can't seem to get rid of. "Hey, Maria, where's your burka tonight?" "His cat is sick."

Cheney \ verb: to hide out till trouble passes. "I'll be in the cafeteria Cheney-ing," ad rep Geoff Fowler tells his secretary (perhaps once too often). "I'll be back in a few hours, or a few days, or never." Synonym: to Laden.

Delta Force \ verb: to accomplish a difficult task with stealth and surgical precision, to get in -- and out -- quick. Faced with a long, muddled story, one magazine editor vowed, "I'll just Delta Force it."

9/11'd \ adj.: Wall Street term to describe a portfolio thrown into chaos by the post-September 11 economy. "The stocks've been 9/11'd -- shit's down," explains one broker.

'thraxed \ adj.: stricken, ill, hungover. "I'm too sick to come to work today," says a Carroll Gardens resident. "I'm 'thraxed."

weaponized \ adj.: describing an ordinary thing put to evil purposes. "I think it was just weaponized sex -- she only slept with me to get back at her ex-boyfriend." Seems (fingers crossed) to be going out of fashion.


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