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Introducing 15 New Words For Los Angeles Traffic

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The Yupik people of Siberia have 40 words for types of snow. The Inuit of Northern Canada have 53. The Sami of Scandinavia have 180. But the Angelenos of Southern California, whose lives are no less affected by gridlock than northern people's are by snow, have only a few words for traffic. And so writer Eric Spiegelman submits these 15 new words for types of Los Angeles traffic, illustrated by Eric Lebofsky.

looloolag [lo͞o·lo͞o·lag]: Heavy slowdown on a freeway caused by everyone looking at the guy who flipped his car over the divider.

suckstream [sək·strēm]: Single-lane backup on the freeway caused by one guy driving slower than the speed limit either because he's in a clunker that shouldn't be on the freeway in the first place or, you know, for no reason. Characterized by everyone else's inability to change lanes because traffic on either side is going at a normal pace. Like a slipstream, but one that sucks.

haltgeist [hôlt·gīst]: Congestion due to the freeway's natural "memory" of an accident that was actually cleaned up hours earlier. Anecdotally known as "traffic for no reason."

shortcaught [shôrt·kôt]: When you have the smart idea to take Sepulveda instead of the 405 or Cahuenga instead of the 101 and everyone else does too.

perpendoggle [pər·pən·däg·əl]: A multi-directional snarl caused in the confusion when someone wants to make a left turn into a parking lot where the attendant has suddenly and unexpectedly blocked the entrance with a "lot full" sign. Characterized by a complete and somewhat surprising absence of sympathy from other drivers. Portmanteau for "perpendicular boondoggle."

haute-stepping [ōt·step·ing]: Rush hour traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard as it runs through Beverly Hills, where the stoplights all change at the exact same time in some kind of Soviet-style control scheme, giving the slow progress a certain rhythm, at least.

delasia [di·LĀ·zhə]: A slowdown, usually on a residential street, caused by some guy who clearly doesn't know where he is or where he's going, but has not yet decided to pull over and look at Google Maps on his phone.

prehonkphony [prē·HÄNGK·fə·nē]: The brief period of stillness and quiet between the moment the light turns green and the moment the guy at the front of the intersection, who has not yet realized that he can proceed, has this fact called to his attention by everyone behind him.

buttle [bət·l]: Stoppage along an otherwise uncongested road because there are so many cars in the left-hand turn lane that the rear half of the last one is blocking the next lane over.

starbuttle: [STÄR·bət·l]: A buttle, but on the starboard side (i.e., the stoppage is caused by someone who can't turn right because there are people in the crosswalk).

drizzillia [driz·IL·yə]: Traffic during the first 10 minutes of rain, when widespread panic grips the driving populace.

chokepoke [chōk·pōk]: When several drivers find themselves on a narrow road behind a dump truck or other large, view-blocking, frequently-stopping vehicle, and it's difficult to ascertain whether or not you'll die if you try to pass on the left.

spiegelblock [spē·gəl·bläk]: When several cars get backed up in the right lane because someone decides to parallel park on a major thoroughfare, like Sunset for crying out loud. Named for myself, as this is my second-biggest traffic pet peeve, just after people who refuse to pull into the intersection when they're making a left.

canyononium [kan·yən·ōn·ē·əm]: Traffic in the Hollywood Hills that happens when a mudslide or broken water main blocks one or more major roads and motorists are forced to follow a labyrinthine set of detours to get from the Valley to the Westside or vice versa (except they might never actually get there because the whole thing is just bedlam).

bullshit [bo͝ol·shit]: Freeway traffic on a Saturday.
· Curbed Features [Curbed LA]