Remember when marketers exhorted us to trade up, spend freely, and buy more? When grand, luxe, and premier were sprinkled like shaved truffles over ad copy? That was before the recession took a bite out of our wallets and our aspirations. Nowadays, it's fashionable (not to mention necessary) to live within one's means — or to just live without.
Even if your budget will permit an occasional extravagance, the chic-onomic spirit of the times requires the illusion of sacrifice, whether that means sipping a nonalcoholic mocktail (may I interest you in a Cosmo-Not? a Nojito? a Safe Sex on the Beach?); taking a staycation, a daycation, or a just-say-no naycation; or bragging about being an opportunivore (a person who eats whatever's available and, more to the point, free). Coincidentally, living with less is often touted as an environmentally virtuous option.
But we've only just begun. Here, in the spirit of the times, is an extended glossary to help you talk about your newly — trendily! — downsized lifestyle.
Neo-frugalists. GTR Consulting, a San Francisco market-research firm, coined neo-frugalists in August 2009 to describe "teens confronting a new economic reality." Neo-frugalism is "one of the unexpected byproducts of the recession," the company's gTrend Teen Report declared. "Neo-Frugalism is the skill and passion that resourceful teens are applying to the acquisition of technology and other badge items. Our research shows that instead of buying on impulse, today's teens have become more value-driven consumers. ... Interestingly, with thriftiness going mainstream, it has become cool to be the first one to 'find the deal' and spread the gospel of their thrifty ways."
Sixers. Maybe you're "sick and tired of consumerism" like Sally Bjornsen, author of The Great American Apparel Diet blog, which challenges participants to abstain from shopping for a year. Maybe you're obsessed with efficiency like Dean Kakrides, who works for a product-innovation company and who told the New York Times that minimizing his wardrobe "freed a lot of bandwidth in my head." Or maybe you're just game for a creative challenge, like the two 30-something ad-agency women who earlier this year launched Six Items or Less, "a global experiment examining the power of what we don't wear." The 100 or so people who signed up at Six Items or Less took a vow to wear only six items of clothing (excluding shoes, underwear, and accessories) for a month. Participants called themselves "Sixers," and sometimes referred to their shared activity as "fashion fasting" or "the shopping diet." (A book titled The Shopping Diet: Spend Less and Get More was released in August of this year. Its author is Philip Block, a "premiere celebrity stylist," which is certainly amusing if not strictly ironic.)
Stedda. If you're avoiding eggs, butter, milk, meat, or fish, what do you eat instead? You might try a "stedda" substitute. "Stedda" isn't new — it was coined from "instead of" by Marilyn and Harvey Diamond in their 1990 book The American Vegetarian Cookbook — but it's been... well, steadily gaining acceptance. Most "steddas" are tofu-based, but the Diamonds' "Stedda Tuna" recipe, which has been republished frequently on vegan and vegetarian blogs, uses kelp powder and no soy products.
Vaping. Quitting smoking is good for personal and public health and will save you money in the long run. In the meantime, you may want to curb the urge by vaping: puffing on electronic cigarettes ("e-cigs"), which deliver nicotine vapor without the smoke. Vaping also allows nicotine addicts to indulge their habit without running afoul of public-smoking bans. If you're tempted to make the switch, there's a sizable virtual vaping community: find your online fix at Vaping Review, Vaping It, Vaping Guide, All Things Vaping, and many other websites.
Never Ever. I recently read a menu description of a "Never Ever charcuterie plate," and even though I never ever eat charcuterie (preserved meats), I had to ask the waiter about it. "It's a movement!" he said cheerfully. Actually, as I learned later, it's a U.S. Department of Agriculture designation covering certain kinds of meat products that are notable for what they are not. The full name is Never Ever 3, abbreviated as NE3; it stands for "No Antibiotics — Never Ever," "No Growth Promotants — Never Ever"; and "No Animal By-Products — Never Ever." It's a refreshing, rather Peter Pan-ish twist on what might have been a dull-as-dust bureaucratic appellation.
No Poo. Here's an oddity: a term that entered the lexicon as a trademarked product name and gradually became a generic expression for rejection of the entire product category in question. No-Poo was introduced by the DevaConcepts company in 2002 as an alternative cleanser for women with curly hair. "We took the poo out of shampoo, the harsh lathering and dehydrating detergent found in most shampoos that has no inherent value in the cleansing process," declares the DevaConcepts website. (Point of clarification: there is no poo in shampoo. The word "shampoo" came into English from champo, a Hindi word that means "massage" or "knead.")But by 2008 — or possibly even earlier; the Internet trail goes cold — no poo had been adopted by hygiene rebels who used it to mean "stop using shampoo, period." Most no-pooers substitute a combination of baking soda and vinegar for shampoo, as in this Instructables lesson on "how to go No Poo." Use it with your soap-free soap, which Ben Zimmer wrote about here last year.
Simplicitarian. Proving there is, indeed, nothing new under the sun, this word — defined as "one who aims at simplicity in life" — was first seen in print in 1837, according to the OED (by way of the excellent Schott's Vocab blog). It seems due for a revival. Are you listening, all you Sixers, Vapers, NoPooers, and Neo-Frugalists?
Nancy Friedman is the chief wordworker at verbal-branding consultancy Wordworking, and the author of a fine blog on naming, branding and more called Fritinancy. Nancy has named a venture-capital firm, a laser hair-removal device, a mobile-money service, and many other companies and products. A former journalist, she still writes or ghostwrites articles, speeches, white papers, and books.Click here to read other articles by Nancy Friedman