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A lexicon of terror, post-9/11

Some words and phrases that became part of Americans' day-to-day vocabulary after Sept. 11:

©Associated Press

September 8, 2002


Some words and phrases that became part of Americans' day-to-day vocabulary after Sept. 11:

ANTHRAX: Infectious bacterial disease of sheep and cattle transmissible to humans. Pulmonary anthrax, caused by inhalation of the bacteria, killed five Americans via anthrax-laced letters in the months after Sept. 11. It has not been determined who was behind the mailings.

AXIS OF EVIL: Refers to Iran, Iraq and North Korea, according to President Bush, who accused those countries of supporting terrorism against other nations and trying to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Bush first used the phrase in his State of the Union address in January.

BIOTERRORISM: The use of biological agents such as anthrax or smallpox to induce panic, disease or death.

BURQA: A women's garment covering almost the entire body, with only a small mesh opening for the eyes. Required by the Taliban for most women outside the home. Also called chadri.

CELL: A small, semi-independent group within a terrorist organization. Investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks identified cells in Hamburg, Germany, and Madrid, Spain.

DAISY CUTTER: Nickname for the BLU-82 bomb, which at 15,000 pounds is billed as the world's largest conventional bomb. Used by U.S. military in Afghanistan. The size of a small car, it costs an estimated $27,000.

DIRTY BOMB: A device to spread radioactive material, causing widespread fear. Consequences more psycho-social than medical. Not to be confused with a nuclear bomb, with its devastating fission explosion.

EVILDOERS: Bush's shorthand for terrorists and their allies: "We will rid the world of evildoers."

FATWA: A ruling on a point of Islamic law issued by an Islamic religious expert.

GROUND ZERO: Used to describe the World Trade Center site after the attacks. Originally a military term used to describe the point where a nuclear bomb explodes.

HOMELAND DEFENSE: Defense of U.S. soil. Sept. 11 marked the first such serious concerns since Pearl Harbor.

JIHAD: In Islam, warfare within oneself against evil or temptation; also, defense of Islam. From the Arabic word meaning to strive or exert effort.

"LET'S ROLL:" Uttered by passenger Todd Beamer aboard the hijacked plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Beamer was apparently signaling fellow passengers to seize control of the plane from the terrorists.

9/11: Shorthand for the attacks.

TALIBAN: Afghanistan's ultraconservative Islamic militia. Emerged in the mid-1990s; essentially overthrown in the U.S. war on terrorism.

WANDING: Using a wand to detect traces of explosives; used in airports since the attacks.

WEAPONIZE: Turn biological agents such as anthrax or smallpox into a weapon.

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