For many years, the Oxford Dictionary has been choosing one word per year to add to the vocabulary of English-speakers.
The word for 2013: selfie n. a photographic self-portrait taken with a handheld gadget.
What word entered the language the year you were born? If you’re having your 113th birthday this year, you and natterer, one who fusses or chatters, entered the world together; ballyhoo appeared in 1901. In 1902, the word nuanced made its appearance and in 1903, doozy was introduced.
In 1904, it was rubbernecking. In 1905 hands-on came into the language, followed by bootleg in 1906, (20 years earlier than we would have expected it.)
Not every Word of the Year is destined for linguistic greatness. Few of us ever use 1907’s word, laugh-o-meter or nutarian, the word for 1909, defined as one whose diet is limited to nuts. In 1908, however, the word airliner was introduced and quickly became a household word. In 1910, melt-in-the-mouth became a way to describe something deliciously soft and light to eat and outdoorsy hiked in for 1911.
The yes-man made his appearance in 1912, followed by celeb in 1913, ice-skate in 1914 and back-to-nature in 1915. Headlinese, the word for 1916 and chucklsome, 1917’s word, never caught on but low-budget (1918) and airmail (1919) sure did. Housesharing, the word for 1920 is still a useful concept, though howzat, the word for 1921 seems to have gone away. Gramophile, the word for 1922 went the way of the gramophone, though hitch-hike (1923) is still alive and well. Radio-star (1924) is rarely heard today but freebie (1925) is a part of almost everybody’s daily vocabulary.
Can-do made its appearance in 1926. In 1927, air conditioned was a new word and in 1928, party-crasher made its appearance. In 1929, we started borrowing the Italian word, ciao to say hello and good-bye and in 1930, we became acquainted with clone. Photomontage was the Word of the Year in 1931 and EEK! (as when one is startled by a mouse) was introduced in 1932.
1933 brought us the made-up mathlete, for one who takes part in a mathematics competition. In 1934, baddie was the new word for movie villain. Al dente described firm but tender pasta in 1935; do-gooding was the word for 1936, and free-loading appeared in 1937. A dance called the bunny hop was all the rage in 1938 as was the face-lift in 1939.
Acronynm was Word of the Year in 1940; bad-mouth arrived in 1941 and ear-bending in 1942, defined as lengthy, boring, or ill-tempered diatribe (usually to one person). Beanie came in 1943 to describe the little hat and gobbledegook in 1944 as a put-down of pretentious jargon.
1945 saw the first mobile phone; in 1946 things started going into orbit; in 1947, the new word was queue-jumping, the practice of pushing into a queue in order to be served before one’s turn. TV was a brand-new term in 1948.
In 1949, George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, gave rise to newspeak, euphemistic language as used in political propaganda. In 1950 came big bang, the cosmological theory of the rapid expansion of the universe which marked its origin (an estimated 13.7 billion years ago). In 1951, blast-off was added to describe a rocket-launch and noshery (1952) for snack bar or restaurant.
Frenemy, the word for 1953, describes a person who combines the characteristics of both friend and enemy. Nowheresville (1954) is used to dismiss an insignificant place.
Artificial Intelligence (1955) is the capacity of machines to simulate intelligent behavior and nitpicking, introduced in 1956, meant petty-minded fault-finding. Oenophilic, in 1957, related to oenophiles, or wine-lovers. In 1958 we added photocall, the summoning of performers to be photographed. In 1959, beat poetry got a lot of attention and its own dictionary entry; in 1960 with bouffant skirts and hairdos everywhere, we got bouffy, a short-lived adjective. Chocoholic joined the dictionary in 1961 to put a name to those addicted to chocolate.
In 1962 we added blag, for a bluff or pretense, though it is rarely heard today. Cyberculture, added in 1963, describes life on the Internet. In 1964, the Beatles seemed important enough to warrant the adjective, Beatlesque. In 1965, bada-bing made its appearance, suggesting something happening suddenly or easily (like Presto!) In 1966 computernik became the word for a computer enthusiast. Not everything translates well from British English; the word mockney was used (1967) to describe a phony Cockney accent and, in 1968, you might have said, Gasp! to express mock horror. The dictionary added megastar (1969). The phrase for 1970 was laugh-out-loud and in 1971 we learned to reboot after a power shut-down.
How did we get along until 1972 without guilt trip? Recyclist was the word for 1973, once the nation began saving its waste products to be used again. In 1974 the Internet was on everybody’s mind. Brainiac, the word for 1975, means a very intelligent person. In 1976, punkster was used to describe a punk rocker or fan of punk music. In 1977, nip and tuck described minor cosmetic surgery and gazillion was added in 1978 for a large number of something. In 1979 the (chiefly British) bagsy was used to demand one’s due for being first to claim.
In 1980, foodie was used for a person with special interest in food. In 1981 you might have told me to take a chill pill or, in other words, to calm down. In 1982, downloadable appeared along with computer files to download. The playful air guitar was a popular pretend-instrument in 1983.
If you had a compulsion to shop in 1984, you were a shopaholic. In 1985, gobsmacked meant that you were flabbergasted, rendered incoherent with amazement. In 1986, channel surfing was to change television channels frequently using a remote. In 1987 a person of enormous wealth might be called a bazillionaire. In 1988 we added beatbox as a verb referring to vocal sounds in imitation of hip-hop. In 1988 crowd-surfing was seen occasionally at rock concerts when somebody, lying flat, would be passed over the heads of audience members. In 1990 e-mail emoticons appeared—representations of facial expressions formed by a sequence of keystrokes to convey a sender’s intended tone.
Nu skool (1991) referred to newer styles of popular music esp. hip-hop and poptastic (1992) was the way to describe a very good
pop music performance. Geeksville (1993) was a place or state characterized by geekiness and dadrock (1994) was your father’s rock music. Scratchini was graffiti illegally gouged or engraved in public places (1995), gastropub meant a public house specializing in high quality food (1996).
In 1997, we added Muggle, an inferior person with no magical powers, from the Harry Potter series. In 1998 hacktivism was gaining unauthorized access to computer files to propagate a social or political message. Bling (1999) meant ostentatious jewelry or
conspicuous consumption. In 2000, a hairstyle called a fauxhawk resembled a Mohawk
except that the sides of the head remain unshaven. Bromance was coined in 2001 to mean the affectionate friendship between men and parkour (2002) was holistic training discipline using moves developed in military obstacle-course training.
Flash mob, the Word of the Year 2003, is a large group of people organized by means of the Internet, who assemble in public to perform a prearranged action together, then quickly disperse. Podcast, (2004) means to make a digital recording of a broadcast available for downloading to computer or personal audio player. Sudoku the word game, entered the dictionary in 2005. In 2006, carbon neutral was added, followed by carbon footprint in 2007. Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon (C02) you, as an individual, emit in any one-year period. Being carbon neutral means having a net zero carbon footprint.
Credit crunch was added in 2008, defined as a the tightening of the availability of loans or credit. Social media influenced the entry for 2009, giving us unfriend, the removal of somebody from your list of Facebook friends. In 2010, Sarah Palin’s famous gaffe refudiate (refute+repudiate) became Word of the Year and, in 2011, squeezed middle was added, defined as “bearing the brunt of government tax burdens whilst having the least with which to relieve it.” In 2012, the word added was the verb Gif, to create a Gif file, an image or video sequence.
The Word Hound welcomes readers’ questions, comments, favorite words and suggestions for future columns.