Prepper: A person who is actively preparing for large-scale emergencies such as natural disasters and the breakdown of the social and political order. A more moderate and positive-sounding synonym for “survivalist.”
Preppers have been featured in at least two national newspapers in the last week. “For Preppers, Every Day Could Be Doomsday,” was published November 17 in USA Today:
The number of preppers is unknown, but a poll done for National Geographic Channel in September indicated that 28% of Americans knew one. Preppers meet-up networks are proliferating on social networks. Doomsday Preppers is the network's most-watched series[.]
An article in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, “How to Survive Societal Collapse in Suburbia,” focused on the mainstreaming of the survivalist movement. The article includes a photograph of Ron Douglas, his wife, and their six children, surrounded by a year’s worth of disaster-preparedness supplies. The reporter, Keith O’Brien, accompanied Ron Douglas to a Starbucks near Denver:
Many so-called survivalists would take pride in keeping far away from places that sell espresso drinks. But Douglas, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and founder of one of the largest preparedness expos in the country, isn’t your typical prepper.
The modern-day prepper movement has its origins in the Cold War, when American families were encouraged to stock personal fallout shelters for an expected nuclear attack. The movement, which has waxed and waned over the years, got a big boost in the late 1990s amid (groundless) fears about a Y2K computer bug. The preparedness industry is thriving again, reports Keith O’Brien, spurred by the 9/11 attacks, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and even the Mayan calendar. A subspecies of preppers believes that the presidency of Barack Obama (almost always referred to as Barack Hussein Obama or BHO) is a sign of the apocalypse.
The prepper movement has its own jargon, which is heavy on acronyms. One of the most popular terms is TEOTWAWKI, which stands for “the end of the world as we know it” and is pronounced tee-ought-wah-kee. (A Y2K glossary, still online, defines it as “shorthand for a predicted calamity involving the breakdown of society, whether due to Y2K or any other perceived threat.” The term was borrowed from the title of the 1987 song by R.E.M.)
The very extensive glossary on SurvivalBlog (“The daily web blog for prepared individuals living in uncertain times”) includes this basic prepper vocabulary:
BOB: Bug-Out Bag (a survival kit for leaving in a hurry)
G.O.O.D. kit: Get Out of Dodge Kit, synonymous with BOB.
Group therapy: Full automatic fire.
MASCAL: Mass casualty.
PPPPPPP: Prior Poor Planning Produces Pitifully Poor Performance.
SMUG: Seriousness, Manageability, Urgency, and Growth (scales for evaluating disasters)
SS&S: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up – a philosophy about feral dogs.
Also in circulation: WTSHTF (“when the shit hits the fan”).