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What words arrived when you did?

An Oxford Dictionary blog has a cool interactive feature that lets you click on the year you were born to learn what words or phrases were coined the year your parents first started changing your diapers. One of a few words could show up when you type in your birth year.

One of my 1963 words was "cyberculture," the environment that is created from using computers for communicating, entertainment and work.

I know my crib was a computer-free zone. Apparently, others were using them elsewhere.

By chance, I looked up a word for 1961 and it was "chocoholic," a rabid lover of chocolate. I qualify as one, for sure. But my oldest sister, Laura, had the sharpest skills for this pastime. In '61, she was 14, so I fully believe she had a role in that coinage.

In 1909, a year that keeps the letter "n" busy, a new word was "nutarian." That's a person whose diet is solely nuts. That made me laugh.

In 1916, one word was "headlinese," the name for shortened or dramatic words used in newspaper and other headlines: "slam," "vie," "limn."

"Eek," an interjection, was first documented in 1932. You say it when you're alarmed or shocked. For some reason, I believe it's often used with "Eek, a mouse!" I was surprised to hear that Eek-A-Mouse is a Jamaican reggae musician.

"Gobbledygook" came along in 1944.

A new one for 1945 was "mobile phone." How can that be? It's the British term for cellphone, but I didn't realize they were around so early. Probably in those days a mobile phone was the size of a breadbox. But that's still mobile, I suppose.

"Frenemy" joined the Oxford Dictionary in 1953. It's a person who's polite and friendly, but who is your enemy nonetheless. It's a portmanteau, or word smashup, of "friend" and "enemy." Merriam-Webster says that word didn't show up until 1977, though.

Different dictionaries decide at different times when words or phrases qualify for their books.

"Nip and tuck" was a phrase first used in 1977. This is a nickname for cosmetic surgery, but I'm not sure which is the euphemism for which.

The year 1985 brought us "gobsmacked," meaning astounded or stunned. It's primarily used in Britain. I had thought for sure that word went back to the time of Geoffrey Chaucer and his book The Canterbury Tales.

Wow, the 1990s brought a few words I've never heard. But 1999's "bling" is still here, thank goodness. Can we ever have too much showy jewelry?

And 2002 brought us "parkour." It's a hobby that involves jumping over obstacles in an urban environment. That is exactly what some of my nightmares involve.

Here is a shortcut link to the tool for finding one or two of your birth year's words or phrases:


I heard from only a few people with zeugmas to share.

A zeugma isn't an ailment but a word that is implied more than once in a sentence, sometimes in a humorous way. I wrote about zeugmas last week, and here are some examples readers emailed to me:

From Don:

The journalist elicited zeugmas, then a jammed inbox and eyestrain.

(Don, I love a jammed inbox. Eyestrain I could probably live without.)

From David:

You love me, and I you.

A story that Dennis heard on Jeopardy! years ago:

If Lincoln's hand could pen elegant prose, his long legs lacked a similar grace. At a Springfield soiree, the courting Lincoln edged over to the silk-gowned Mary Todd and offered, "Miss Mary, I'd like to dance with you in the worst way." After a spin on the floor, Mary said, "Abraham, you wanted to dance in the worst way and you certainly did!"

(This may well be a story with doubtful authenticity. But I so want it to be true.)

From Archie:

I downed the whiskey, and my reputation.

From Ken, who calls his a poor example:

He enjoyed flowers in a vase and sometimes pot.

Sources: American Heritage Dictionary, Oxford Dictionaries, Business Insider, Merriam-Webster


ActiveStyle on 12/03/2018

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