Petrodollar & quango
August 9, 2017 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Merriam-Webster has a new feature where you can see by year what words were coined.

Plus: Related musings by Elif Batuman in The New Yorker.
posted by Chrysostom (23 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
And yes, I know that's the earliest year a word can be traced, not necessarily when it was really coined.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:19 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I find that words on coins are difficult to form sentences with. Like, if you need a past-tense and all you have are present-tense and future-tense.

Basically coined language is like playing Magic: The Gathering where booster packs might help but probably not.
posted by hippybear at 9:33 PM on August 9, 2017

Also, it's cool that Merriam-Webster is doing this. Hasn't it been mostly the exclusive domain of the OED for a long time?
posted by hippybear at 9:34 PM on August 9, 2017

Aw, I was born in the year of Agent Orange and Erectile Dysfunction.

But also Chimichanga and Hot Pants!
posted by ctmf at 9:36 PM on August 9, 2017

Yeah, the OED has been pretty much the only place to get this kind of information (when you consider how much work it is to research the earliest uses of 500,000+ words it makes sense).
posted by dilaudid at 9:37 PM on August 9, 2017

I've got Band-Aid and Chinese restaurant syndrome and SWAT. And PCP. But also word processor and safe sex (!) and peace symbol. But also morning breath. But also LED.

1968 was a land of contrasts. So much so that Time did an entire issue about that year. Books have been written. It was one of those years.

I have wondered more than once what my parents thought about the world when they adopted me at 10 days old. What sort of world did they think they were bringing me into? So much chaos in one year, the collapse of the counter-culture (even while it endures today), but also great progress in a lot of areas.
posted by hippybear at 9:47 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Ghetto blaster" is listed under 1981, but I can do better than that. The phrase is used in the motion picture Fame, which came out in May of 1980. (I watched it yesterday!) I guess they probably go by uses in print, but still; the movie presumably had a script.

But man, a lot of stuff that's incredibly common nowadays was apparently first put to paper in the eighties. It's kind of mind-blowing, really.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:54 PM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Pro-choice, right-to-life, Watergate. GUESS WHAT YEAR I WAS BORN

(I also have "soccer mom", though, which seems odd)
posted by Lucinda at 10:11 PM on August 9, 2017

Bad hair day was added the year I was born. This explains so much.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:15 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I generally find soccer moms to be odd.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 PM on August 9, 2017

I was born in the:

skeevy smart-mouthed spider vein
digital camera direct-response dream catcher
blow-dried boat people body piercing

Ethernet Eurocommunism exercise bicycle exit poll
supergravity supply-side surimi
integrated pest management intrafallopian IPO
conclusionary cooldown
posted by not_the_water at 10:21 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The hits of 1977: Antarctic toothfish, antidesertification, bad cholesterol, beam weapon, chemo, chipmaker, cringeworthy, deconstructionism, decontextualize, download, Ebola, fast fashion, food insecure, gamer, gazillion, good cholesterol, headbanger, head game, hydrochlorofluorocarbon, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin-dependent diabetes, intranet, levonorgestrel, magnetic resonance imaging, megahit, memory foam, money shot, ovo-lacto vegetarian, palimony, parachute pants, paroxetine, PC, power chord, punker, radar gun, reverse mortgage, shark repellent, shopaholicstrip mall, supercenter, techy, text message, upload, warp speed, wave pool, white-bread, word wrap, Yooper.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:18 PM on August 9, 2017

It says the first time humblebrag was used in print was 2002 but I can't find the source. I call shenanigans.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:23 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Internet, transgender, Higgs boson, Heimlich maneuver, biofuel, geothermal engineering, Oort cloud, lots of [foo]person words, but sadly also acquaintance rape, alternative music and bunker mentality.

Also for some reason, both string bikini and string cheese, supermom and supersymmetry.

Coronal mass ejection needs to be the name of a band, perhaps a Sun cover band?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:55 AM on August 10, 2017

Ah, this takes me back to those glorious days of youth when we would sit around talking about American paint horses, common situs picketing, the Josephson junction, off-gassing, sandwich coins, and tummlers.

"Alley oop!" We'd say. "Teenybopper on the give and go. Cryoprotective, retroreflective, notchback head case slot racing in the stellar wind."

"Vroom, vroom, there's the Ugly American doing wheelies in a free-fire zone. Jacked up, unawesome slicksters of the overclass wiped out during drive time as the manpacks of their midlife crisis leads to nowheresville. That's a top 40 thigh slapper all right. A perfect complementizer for the cutability of those gazoos."

Good times.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:55 AM on August 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was born with race-baiting and freedom ride, with nonblack and affirmative action, with reel-to-reel and mic and soul music, with la dolce vita and paparazzo, with mind-altering and diazepam and mai tai, with endosulfan and paraquat and deet, with computer science and object code and operating system and read-only memory, with military-industrial complex and no-win and dimethylhydrazine and low earth orbit, with grok and theater of the absurd and wayback machine.
posted by pracowity at 3:20 AM on August 10, 2017

CAT scanner! Surely this ... wins me some sort of Mefi prize?!?

Or do I have to bake everyone a cake or something. I don't have an oven.
posted by quinndexter at 4:50 AM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

At our Vermont cabin we have Scrabble but no Internet. So the rule is that for a word to be legal, it has to be in the cabin's dictionary.

The cabin's dictionary proudly boasts on the back that it is a modern dictionary adding new terms for the 20th century such as "cookout," "marina" and "strontium-90."
posted by justkevin at 6:26 AM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Getting the scrabble tile for the dash in strontium-90 is always a challenge.
posted by hippybear at 6:34 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Where was this the other day when a cis person had a meltdown on my Facebook wall, demanding to know when the word "cisgender" was coined (1994) and why didn't anyone consult her personally. (Ok, Merriam-Webster is awesome, but that last bit is even beyond them to fix.)
posted by Wossname at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Huh, the first known use of "transgender" was the year I was born. COINCIDENCE? Or fate?
posted by AFABulous at 7:59 AM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

> Yeah, the OED has been pretty much the only place to get this kind of information (when you consider how much work it is to research the earliest uses of 500,000+ words it makes sense).

And it used to be said that M-W ripped their earliest-attestation data off of the OED. I don't know if this is still the case (or ever was; don't sue me!), or if they've accumulated enough citations by now that they can roll their own.
posted by languagehat at 8:03 AM on August 10, 2017

Hm. My birth year has: catch-22; crapshoot; dominatrix; open marriage; underperform; username; VCR; wild card; wiseass.

Interesting mix.
posted by nubs at 9:38 AM on August 10, 2017

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