Although I’m a writer, I’m not in the habit of coining new words. I think the half-million English ones that we have are sufficient for most occasions.
However, modern life sometimes introduces a fresh grotesquerie to our society. In such cases, it’s acceptable to mix and match syllables – and even languages – to make the new concept clear.
For example, I’ve noticed that in my neighborhood, there is a small cadre of homeless people. But they are different from the homeless I saw in New York or the Midwest. Those individuals, for reasons I cannot explain, tended to be deranged or blackly comedic, and they instigated confrontations regularly.
These West Coast unfortunates, on the other hand, are more likely to be quiet and to avoid panhandling altogether. In fact, I usually see them engaged in some isolated, odious task to scrap out a living. Most often, they’re digging through trashcans or recycling bins in search of aluminum cans or glass bottles. I then see them pushing grocery carts overflowing with their clanging treasures.
Our neighborhood is hilly, so it’s tough work lugging the carts up steep inclines. These are individuals who labor hard for their pittance.
Recently I passed by a guy who had hit a motherload of empty bottles. Evidently, one of our neighbors is rich and/or had something big to celebrate, because the bin was overflowing with spent champagne bottles and high-end wine vintages. The irony of seeing a man stockpile empty containers of Dom Perignon, in the hopes of scoring a few cents, was inescapable.
Perhaps it is just my neighborhood, but these foragers are overwhelmingly Hispanic. They don’t snag the day jobs like the trabajadores, but like them, they strain mightily for chump change.
To call them homeless or street people is inaccurate, and even a disservice. In honor of their hard-working brethren, I think of them as the aluminumadores.
We’ll see if the word catches on. But to be honest, I hope the term becomes irrelevant long before then.