No. 492: "Mountain Pique"
"Super" is a particularly promiscuous prefix, attaching itself willy-nilly to the oddest roots. (And who hasn't? Especially when drunk?) This results in a certain laxness when referring to models, stars, and heroes. Superman, OK, and maybe superboy. But superdog? And a group is not truly super if it includes any member of Metallica. Unless it can fly and use its X-ray vision to see through the leather pants of Giselle. Is she the one from Brazil?
Supercharge ought to be the punch line for a borscht-belt joke about Visa or MasterCard, featuring plastic melting from overuse and the words "my wife." But it's not. It's something to do with the air and fuel intake in an engine, and is similar to but not synonymous with turbocharge, and no doubt makes a car much better than it would otherwise be if something less super happened to the fuel and the air.
The official meaning of superfine is a derogatory one—overly refined or nice. But I prefer the Phil Spector usage (in general a good idea in musical but not dating situations) in the dazzling "Fine, Fine Boy," written with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry for Darlene Love. The best part is when the music stops and she says, "My boy, he's a fine, fine superfine boy!" And then Phil has his bodyguards beat the hell out of one of the backup singers.
In a related story, supercool is all about going below the freezing point and avoiding crystalization. And superconductor has nothing to do with Zubin Mehta. People can be so cruel.
Supercilious is how Al Gore is accused of acting at the debates because he is arrogant enough to actually know something about the matter under discussion. The big snob. The word derives from raised eyebrow. Cilium—eyebrow. He probably swaggers around like that, all educated, because of a problem with his superego. George W. Bush has avoided this problem by being superficial. Somebody stop me; I can go on all night like this. But it would be superfluous.
Chevron agreed to acquire Texaco for $36 billion in stock, creating the worlds fourth-largest oil company. The other three "supermajors" are Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, and BP Amoco.
Chevron Texaco will have about $66.5 billion in revenue and produce about 2.7 million barrels of oil a day from reserves of 11 billion barrels. After their planned firing of 4,000 people, they'll employ about 51,000.
The two companies are eager to get big enough to compete in lucrative but risky deepwater drilling projects in West Africa, Brazil, and the Caspian Sea.
A Gore spokesman responded, "Given the fact that oil companies saw their profits rise by more than 300% in the past year, it raises the question whether big oil is getting too big."
Randy Cohen used to write Slate's "News Quiz." His most recent book—oh, like you don't know.