Airportisms: New Words for Your Travel Lexicon


Following up on my Modest List of Invented Expatisms, here are nine new terms to help you describe your traveling experiences. So the next time you’re in an airport, remember

Do not leave your bags unattended.
Do not stand on the toilet seats.
And do not let your words fail you.

Here for your vocabulary building . . . airportisms.

Upon hearing that your checked bag is three pounds overweight, you feign frantic action by grabbing zippers, patting your pockets, turning in circles, and saying things such as “I could . . . ,” “Well, I . . . ,” and “What can . . . ,” hoping that the ticket agent will take pity on you and say it’s OK. Be careful that your duffling isn’t too aggressive or the agent will actually let you follow through on solving the problem.

terminal fowliage
Birds that have somehow gotten into an airport and fly around amongst the rafters and indoor trees. Birds stuck inside a place where people come to fly. Sense the irony?

A flaggle of tourists is a group of middling to senior travelers, led by a tour guide with a flag and bullhorn. The flag is akin to the kind I and my friends used to bolt onto our banana-seat bikes when we were kids. Oh, if only we’d had megaphones, too. You can tell that the flaggle is on the return leg of their trip when you see them bringing home food and souvenirs packed in large, branded gift bags or boxes with tied-on handles.

making a this-line’s-not-for-you-turn
After standing patiently in a line for fifteen minutes and realizing that it doesn’t lead where you need to go, you nonchalantly walk away—as if standing in lines is simply your hobby and you’re now looking for another place to queue up for more pleasant amusement. (Aren’t you glad you came early?)

The standing-room-only shuttle bus at some airports that shuffles passengers on the tarmac from plane to airport terminal (or vice versa). This word can also be used as a verb.

Sadow-Plath effect
Happens in the moment when you accidentally kick a pulled carry-on with your heel and it flips onto one wheel and balances before flipping completely over or wobbling back to both wheels. This brief pause at the top of the carry-on’s arc is actually a tiny breach in the space-time continuum, caused by the rapid upturn of the luggage in combination with the forward motion. The effect is named after Bernard D. Sadow, inventor of the wheeled suitcase, and Bob Plath, creator of the rollaboard.

Glizing is the act of experiencing the wonderfully smooth exponential forward motion as you stride confidently on a moving walkway. This only happens when you’re not in a hurry, in part because, as studies show, the walkways do little to speed you up, and often slow you down.

When you try to describe your piece of luggage at the lost-luggage counter, all you can remember is that it’s part of the BlackNSquare line made by the Yuno company. Question: “What Kind of luggage do you have?” Answer: “Yuno, BlackNSquare.” Yuno also makes the upscale models BlackNSquare with handle and BlackNSquare with wheels.

To sit down, with plenty of time before boarding, able to relax because your bags are checked, you’re definitely at the right gate, and a quick look shows that your passport is right where it’s supposed to be. You take a deep breath and contemplate the hopeful possibilities of your trip. You can charge your phone, read, or people watch. You’re free to walk about and might grab a cup of coffee, browse the bestsellers in the bookstore, or window shop expensive luggage and watches . . . and on the way, you can go glizing.

[photo: “Opportunities | Airport Moment,” by John Ragai, used under a Creative Commons license]


8 thoughts on “Airportisms: New Words for Your Travel Lexicon

  1. The flip-flop: trying to get comfortable enough to fall asleep in a quiet corner of an airport during a 8 hour layover.

    Sqeeze & Slide: trying to get yourself, your rolling bag, and your backpack all into the bathroom stall.

    Glance and pass: When you walk past several gate areas taking stock of the open seats and outlets trying to find the best place to sit and plug in while you await your upcoming flight.

    Last Supper: Taking in one last taste of your own countries restaurants before heading off to another world of new flavors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Brooke, for the additions. I’ve definitely glanced and passed myself. Or maybe I’ve passed and glanced. (I usually make a beeline to my gate and then scout out my surroundings after I’m sure I’m in the right place.)


  2. The shoulder toss – The act of tossing your computer bag/backpack (which is at least 25 lb. overweight) lightly over your shoulder at the check-in counter in a subtle demonstration to the agent that it is definitely NOT over-packed, hardly weighs anything, and will certainly fit under the seat in front of you. (And that there may still be room in it for those spare carry-on suitcase items when you have to follow through on your duffling.)


    1. You’re braver than I am. I usually put my backpack next to my feet in a subtle demonstration to the agent that I probably don’t even have a carryon. Why would anybody even think about weighing a bag I may not have?


    2. Lol! I usually fly light. I have a history of moving from nation to nation with only a carry on and my computer case. This trip required two large suitcases. I crammed it all in a medium suitcase, two carry ons, (checked 1) and my computer bag. I’m writing this in my preseating condition, having survived a half dozen Sadow-Plaths, after the Shoulder Toss that nearly threw me off my feet, requiring an immediate glance with no pass.


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