Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture is a 1991 novel by Douglas Coupland.


[These definitions are provided as footnotes within the book]

  • 101-ism - the tendency to pick apart, often in minute detail, all aspects of life using half-understood pop psychology as a tool. (page 85)
  • 2 + 2 = 5-ism - caving in to a target marketing strategy aimed at oneself after holding out for a long period of time: "Oh, all right, I'll buy your stupid cola. Now leave me alone." (page 139)


  • air family - describes the false sense of community experienced among coworkers in an office environment. (page 111)
  • anti-sabbatical - a job taken with the sole intention of staying only for a limited period of time (often one year). The intention is usually to raise enough funds to partake in another, more personally meaningful activity such as watercolor sketching in Crete or designing computer knit sweaters in Hong Kong. Employers are rarely informed of intentions. (page 35)
  • anti-victim device (AVD) - a small fashion accessory worn on an otherwise conservative outfit which announces to the world that one still has a spark of individuality burning inside: 1940s retro ties and earrings (on men), feminist buttons, noserings (on women), and the now almost completely extinct teeny weeny "rattail" haircut (both sexes). (page 114)
  • architectural indigestion - the almost obsessive need to live in a "cool" architectural environment. Frequently related objects of fetish include framed black-and-white art photography (Diane Arbus a favorite); simplistic pine furniture; matte black high-tech items such as TVs, stereos, and telephones; low-wattage ambient lighting; a lamp, chair, or table that alludes to the 1950s; cut flowers with complex names. (page 75)
  • Armanism - after Giorgio Armani: an obsession with mimicking the seamlesss and (more importantly) controlled ethos of Italian culture. Like Japanese minimalism, Armanism reflects a profound inner need for control. (page 82)


  • Bambification - the mental conversion of flesh and blood living creatures into cartoon characters possessing bourgeois Judeo-Christian attitudes and morals. (page 48)
  • black dens - where Black Holes live; often unheated warehouses with Day-Glo spray painting, mutilated mannequins, Elvis references, dozens of overflowing ashtrays, broken mirror sculptures, and Velvet Underground music playing in background. (page 135)
  • black holes - an X generation subgroup best known for their possession of almost entirely black wardrobes. (page 135)
  • bleeding ponytail - an eldery sold-out baby boomer who pines for hippie or pre-sellout days. (page 21)
  • boomer envy - envy of material wealth and long-range material security accrued by older members of the baby boom generation by virtue of fortunate births. (page 21)
  • Bradyism - a multisibling sensiblity derived from having grown up in large families. A rarity in those born after approximately 1965, symptoms of Bradyism include a facility for mind games, emotional withdrawal in situations of overcrowding, and a deeply felt need for a well-defined personal space. (page 134)
  • Brazilification - the widening gulf between the rich and the poor and the accompanying disappearance of the middle classes. (page 11)
  • bread and circuits - the electronic era tendency to view party politics as corny — no longer relevant or meaningful or useful to modern societal issues, and in many cases dangerous. (page 80)


  • café minimalism - to espouse a philosophy of minimalism without actually putting into practice any of its tenets. (page 107)
  • celebrity schadenfreude - lurid thrills derived from talking about celebrity deaths. (page 70)
  • clique maintenance - the need of one generation to see the generation following it as deficient so as to bolster its own collective ego: "Kids today do nothing. They're so apathetic. We used to go out and protest. All they do is shop and complain." (page 21)
  • consensus terrorism - the process that decides in-office attitudes and behavior. (page 21)
  • conspicious minimalism - a life-style tactic similar to Status Substitution. The nonownership of material goods flaunted as a token of moral and intellectual superiority. (page 107)
  • conversational slumming - the self-conscious enjoyment of a given conversation precisely for its lack of intellectual rigor. A major spin-off activity of Recreational Slumming. (page 113)
  • cryptotechnophobia - the secret belief that technology is more of a menace than a boon. (page 172)
  • cult of aloneness - the need for autonomy at all costs, usually at the expense of long-term relationships. Often brought about by overly high expectations of others. (page 69)


  • decade blending - in clothing: the indiscriminate combination of two or more items from various decades to create a personal mood: Sheila = Mary Quant earrings (1960s) + cork wedgie platform shoes (1970s) + black leather jacket (1950s and 1980s). (page 15)
  • derision preemption - a life-style tactic; the refusal to go out on any sort of emotional limb so as to avoid mockery from peers. Derision Preemption is the main goal of Knee-Jerk Irony. (page 150)
  • diseases for kisses (hyperkarma) - a deeply rooted belief that punishment will somehow always be far greater than the crime: ozone holes for littering. (page 48)
  • divorce assumption - a form of Safety Net-ism, the belief that if a marriage doesn't work out, then there is no problem because partners can simply seek a divorce. (page 34)
  • Dorian Graying - the unwillingness to gracefully allow one's body to show signs of aging. (page 164)
  • down-nesting - the tendency of parents to move to smaller, guest-room-free houses after the children have moved away so as to avoid children aged 20 to 30 who have boomeranged home. (page 144)
  • dumpster clocking - the tendency when looking at objects to guesstimate the amount of time they will take to eventually decompose: "Ski boots are the worst. Solid plastic. They'll be around till the sun goes supernova." (page 162)


  • earth tones - a youthful subgroup interested in vegetarianism, tie-dyed outfits, mild recreational drugs, and good stereo equipment. Earnest, frequently lacking in humor. (page 26)
  • emallgration - migration toward lower-tech, lower-information environments containing a lessened emphasis on consumerism. (page 173)
  • emotional ketchup burst - the bottling up of opinions and emotions inside oneself so that they explosively burst forth all at once, shocking and confusing employers and friends — most of whom thought things were fine. (page 21)
  • the emperor's new mall - the popular notion that shopping malls exist on the inside only and have no exterior. The suspension of visual belief engendered by this notion allows shoppers to pretend that the large, cement blocks thrust into their environment, do not, in fact, exist. (page 71)
  • ethnomagnetism - the tendency of young people to live in emotionally demonstrative, more unrestrained ethnic neighborhoods: "You wouldn't understand it there, mother — they hug where I live now." (page 26)
  • expatriate solipsism - when arriving in a foreign travel destination one had hoped was undiscovered, only to find many people just like oneself; the peeved refusal to talk to said people because they have ruined one's elitist travel fantasy. (page 172)
  • fame-induced apathy - the attitude that no activity is worth pursuing unless one can become very famous pursuing it. Fame-induced apathy mimics laziness, but its roots are much deeper. (page 150)
  • green division - to know the difference between envy and jealousy. (page 150)


  • historical slumming - the act of visiting locations such as diners, smokestack industrial sites, rural villages — locations where time appears to have been frozen many years back — so as to experience relief when one returns back to "the present". (page 11)
  • historical underdosing - to live in a period of time when nothing seems to happen. Major symptoms include addiction to newspapers, magazines, and TV news broadcasts. (page 7)
  • historical overdosing - to live in a period of time when too much seems to happen. Major symptoms include addiction to newspapers, magazines, and TV news broadcasts. (page 7)
  • homeowner envy - feelings of jealousy generated in the young and the disenfranchised when facing gruesome housing statistics. (page 144)
  • Jack-and-Jill party - a Squire tradition; baby showers to which both men and women friends are invited as opposed to only women. Doubled purchasing power of bisexual attendance brings gift values up to Eisenhower-era standards. (page 143)
  • Japanese minimalism - the most frequently offered interior design aesthetic used by rootless career-hopping young people. (page 75)
  • knee-jerk irony - the tendency to make flippant ironic comments as a reflexive matter of course in everyday conversation. (page 150)
  • legislated nostalgia - to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess: "How can I be a part of the 1960s generation when I don't even remember any of it?" (page 41)
  • lessness - a philosophy whereby one reconciles oneself with diminishing expectations of material wealth: "I've given up wanting to make a killing or be a bigshot. I just want to find happiness and maybe open up a little roadside cafe in Idaho." (page 54)


  • McJob - a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one. (page 5)
  • me-ism - a search by an individual, in the absence of training in traditional religious tenets, to formulate a personally tailored religion by himself. Most frequently a mishmash of reincarnation, personal dialogue with a nebulously defined god figure, naturalism, and karmic eye-for-eye attitudes. (page 126)
  • mental ground zero - the location where one visualizes oneself during the dropping of the atomic bomb; frequently, a shopping mall. (page 63)
  • metaphasia - an inability to perceive metaphor. (page 164)
  • mid-twenties breakdown - a period of mental collapse occuring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments coupled with a realization of one's essential aloneness in the world. Often marks induction into the ritual of pharmaceutical usage. (page 27)
  • musical hairsplitting - the act of classifying music and musicians into pathologically picayune categories: "The Vienna Franks are a good example of urban white acid folk revivalism crossed with ska." (page 85)


  • native aping - pretending to be a native when visiting a foreign destination. (page 172)
  • now denial - to tell oneself that the only time worth living in is the past and that the only time that may ever be interesting again is the future. (page 41)
  • nutritional slumming - food whose enjoyment stems not from flavor but from a complex mixture of class connotations, nostalgia signals, and packaging semiotics: Katie and I bought this tub of Multi-Whip instead of real whip cream because we thought petroleum distillate whip topping seemed like the sort of food that air force wives stationed in Pensacola back in the early sixties would feed their husbands to celebrate a career promotion. (page 120)
  • obscurism - the practice of peppering daily life with obscure references (forgotten films, dead TV stars, unpopular books, defunct countries, etc.) as a subliminal means of showcasing both one's education and one's wish to disassociate from the world of mass culture. (page 165)
  • occupational slumming - taking a job well beneath one's skill or education level as a means of retreat from adult responsibilities and/or avoiding possible failure in one's true occupation. (page 113)
  • o'propriation - the inclusion of advertising, packaging, and entertainment jargon from earlier eras in everyday speech for ironic and/or comic effect: "Kathleen's Favorite Dead Celebrity party was tons o' fun" or "Dave really thinks of himself as a zany, nutty, wacky, and madcap guy, doesn't he?" (page 107)
  • option paralysis - the tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none. (page 139)
  • overboarding - overcompensating for fears about the future by plunging headlong into a job or life-style seemingly unrelated to one's previous life interests; i.e., Amway sales, aerobics, the Republican party, a career in law, cults, McJobs,... (page 26)
  • ozmosis - the inability of one's job to live up to one's self-image. (page 25)


  • paper rabies - hypersensitivity to littering. (page 127)
  • personality tithe - a price paid for becoming a couple; previously amusing human beings become boring: "Thanks for inviting us, but Noreen and I are going to look at flatware catalogs tonight. Afterward we're going to watch the shopping channel." (page 143)
  • personal tabu - a small rule for living, bordering on a superstition, that allows one to cope with everyday life in the absence of cultural or religious dictums. (page 74)
  • platonic shadow - a nonsexual friendship with a member of the opposite sex. (page 62)
  • poor buoyancy - the realization that one was a better person when one had less money. (page 82)
  • poorochondria - hypochondria derived from not having medical insurance. (page 74)
  • poverty jet set - a group of people given to chronic traveling at the expense of long-term job stability or a permanent residence. Tend to have doomed and extremely expensive phone-call relationships with people named Serge or Ilyana. Tend to discuss frequent-flyer programs at parties. (page 6)
  • poverty lurks - financial paranoia instilled in offspring by depression-era parents. (page 137)
  • power mist - the tendency of hierarchies in office environments to be diffuse and preclude crisp articulation. (page 25)
  • pull-the-plug, slice the pie - a fantasy in which an offspring mentally tallies up the net worth of his parents. (page 137)


  • QFD - quelle fucking drag. "Jamie got stuck at Rome airport for thirty-six hours and it was, like, totally QFD." (page 120)
  • QFM - quelle fashion mistake: "It was really QFM, I mean painter pants? That's 1979 beyond belief." (page 120)
  • rebellion postponement - the tendency in one's youth to avoid traditionally youthful activities and artistic experiences in order to obtain serious career experience. Sometimes results in the mourning for lost youth at about age thirty, followed by silly haircuts and expensive joke-inducing wardrobes. (page 106)
  • recreational slumming - the practice of participating in recreational activities of a class one perceives as lower than one's own: "Karen! Donald! Let's go bowling tonight! And don't worry about shoes... apparently you can rent them." (page 113)
  • recurving - leaving one job to take another that pays less but places one back on the learning curve. (page 24)


  • safety net-ism - the belief that there will always be a financial and emotional safety net to buffer life's hurts. Usually parents. (page 34)
  • sick building migration - the tendency of younger workers to leave or avoid jobs in unhealthy office environments or workplaces affected by the Sick Building Syndrome. (page 24)
  • spectacularism - a fascination with extreme situations. (page 50)
  • Squires - the most common X generation subgroup and the only subgroup given to breeding. Squires exist almost exclusively in couples and are recognizable by their frantic attempts to recreate a semblance of Eisenhower-era plenitude in their daily lives in the face of exorbitant housing prices and two-job life-styles. Squires tend to be continually exhausted from their voraciously acquisitive pursuit of furniture and knickknacks. (page 135)
  • squirming - discomfort inflicted on young people by old people who see no irony in their gestures. Karen died a thousand deaths as her father made a big show of tasting a recently manufactured bottle of wine before allowing it to be poured as the family sat in Steak Hut. (page 112)
  • Strangelove reproduction - having children to make up for the fact that one no longer believes in the future. (page 135)
  • status substitution - using an object with intellectual or fashionable cachet to substitute for an object that is merely pricey: "Brian, you left your copy of Camus in your brother's BMW." (page 54)
  • successophobia - the fear that if one is successful, then one's personal needs will be forgotten and one will no longer have one's childish needs catered to. (page 30)
  • survivulousness - the tendency to visualize oneself enjoying being the last remaining person on earth: "I'd take a helicopter up and throw microwave ovens down on the Taco Bell." (page 62)


  • tele-parablizing - morals used in everyday life that derive from TV sitcom plots: "That's just like the episode where Jan lost her glasses!" (page 120)
  • the tens - the first decade of a new century. (page 163)
  • terminal wanderlust - a condition common to people of transient middle-class upbrings. Unable to feel rooted in any one environment, they move continually in the hopes of finding an idealized sense of community in the next location. (page 171)
  • ultra short term nostalgia - homesickness for the extremely recent past: "God, things seemed so much better in the world last week." (page 96)
  • underdogging - the tendency to almost invariably side with the underdog in a given situation. The consumer expression of this trait is the purchasing of less successful, "sad", or failing products: "I know these Vienna franks are heart failure on a stick, but they were so sad looking up against all the other yuppie food items that I just had to buy them." (page 137)
  • vaccinated time travel - to fantasize about traveling backwards in time, but only with proper vaccinations. (page 11)
  • veal-fattening pen - small, cramped office workstations built of fabric-covered disassemblable wall partitions and inhabited by junior staff members. Named after the small preslaughter cubicles used by the cattle industry. (page 20)
  • virgin runway - a travel destination chosen in the hopes that no one else has chosen it. (page 172)
  • voter's block - the attempt, however futile, to register dissent with the current political system by simply not voting. (page 80)
  • yuppie wannabe's - an X generation subgroup that believes the myth of a yuppie life-style being both satisfying and viable. Tend to be highly in debt, involved in some form of substance abuse, and show a willingness to talk about Armageddon after three drinks. (page 91)

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