Check Your Words

What words appeared in print for the first time the year you were born?

Find out at the Merriam-Webster website here.

Some of mine were:

  • battered woman syndrome
  • 800-pound gorilla (I have no idea what that even means. I guess the word didn’t age as well as I did).
  • butterfly effect
  • couch potato (ouch! But if the shoe fits…)
  • extra virgin
  • femicide
  • micromanage
  • white zinfandel
  • wuss
  • restless leg syndrome

And… drumroll…

  • enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

What about you?

29 thoughts on “Check Your Words”

    1. Same year as me. Also: nuclear winter.

      Another theme for that year:
      CD-ROM, cell phone, information superhighway, newsgroup, point-and-click, ringtone, screenshot, spell-check, virtual private network.


  1. I wouldn’t have guessed that “wuss” was so new!

    Arm candy, buzzkill, HTML, Taliban, digerati (that one didn’t stick around), polyamory (wish this one didn’t stick around), LGBT studies, photoshop, dilation and extraction, Gulf War syndrome, URL

    Really good look at where technology and politics were at that time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. all-terain vehicle
    climbing wall
    critical care
    dirty bomb
    Rock Cornish hen
    Stone Age diet
    tract house
    Turing test
    white flight
    worry beads


      1. You know, English is a trade language, a pidgin originally I think, and so you can create new words in it. This is why Shakespeare had so much fun


          1. “The grammar is very simple”

            Nah, English grammar is easily the most difficult among Western languages to speak and write correctly.

            People think they’re using proper English because they:
            — only need one form of the common article “the” and two forms of the article “a”
            — have only one word for the address term “you”
            — only have four forms of the present and past tense of “is” and three forms of “have”
            — don’t change the endings on nouns that are dative tense or follow prepositions

            But English rules about the correct location of dependent and independent clauses are routinely violated by almost everybody when speaking (as are the rules about comma placement in written works).

            Here’s a sign I saw on a hiking trail in the Phoenix mountains: “No dog ever got bitten by a rattlesnake when it was on a leash.” (Probably not written by a Ph.D, but only because they rarely hike.)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. “What words appeared in print for the first time the year you were born?”

              Being born in April 1945 (one month before the German surrender), I’m not surprised that the term “A bomb” first saw print four months later, when a world-changing new technology brought the Japanese Empire to its knees and finally ended World War II.


            2. Right – it’s easy to pick up rudimentary communicative skills in English but very hard to become a truly skilled user. SO many people think their English is good and I’m not saying it’s bad, but, ahem … and this goes for native speakers, not just non native ones


              1. I recommend John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue. He argues that English evolved out of Norse invaders trying to learn Old English and fashioning a simplified version for their convenience. This makes English a language designed to allow non-natives to achieve a baseline level of communication.


              2. He really says that? Old Norse is quite like Old English, the emergence of modern “simpler” English is much later. ??? I guess I’ll have to read the book!


              3. Today’s English IMO seems really simple in comparison to how they used to write it in the time of the Founders of the U.S. (IMO).


              4. Well, those documents are formally written but yes, by people who read and/or listened to good speakers, good storytellers. Everyone struggles with writing now and I think it is due to lack of exposure to good writing/speaking, and I don’t mean highfalutin necessarily


          2. So Russian vocabulary doesn’t have to be as large? This bodes well for me, I am very good at learning complex grammar and lack patience on vocabulary. Here’ hoping…


            1. ” Russian vocabulary doesnโ€™t have to be as large?

              Slavic languages have prefix systems similar to the Germanic (like Danish words beginning with af- or til- or med- etc. or the Germanic separable and inseparable prefixes if you’ve ever done German).
              So they can generate lots of new words from a basic roots by adding different prefixes. Many of them are pretty transparent in context and it’s easy to recognize their meaning on first viewing/hearing in ways that unfamiliar words in Romance…. aren’t.
              I don’t know if in practical daily use there are fewer words, the native generated words often exist alongside words borrowed from other languages (mostly Latinate or German).


  3. I use the phrase “800 lb gorilla in the room” frequently. It’s idiomatically similar to saying there’s a bull in the china shop – the 800 lb gorilla is the big guy, the one you can’t oppose or mess with, but someone or something that wields power more subtly than the bull .. It’s in my mind idiomatically related to saying there’s a pink elephant in the room, an elephant underneath the carpet.. Because the gorilla may just being calmly sitting there at the table, you might not notice (might not want to notice) him.. People often don’t want to acknowledge or talk about the gorilla. It’s like how you don’t talk about Fight Club, or acknowledge the Don unless he addresses you first.. It’s the often occulted subterranean power that everyone aware of it instinctively acknowledges, but is reticent to talk about.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My words include….

    Asian flue
    big beat
    clip art
    cognitive dissonance
    hoisin sauce (I lurve hoisin sauce)
    sin tax
    smiley face
    snakebit (I thought that was muuuch older)
    soul brother

    A weird mix of things that I thought were much older, much newer and things that seem very relevant to the current moment…


  5. Wow, my year is a winner with words that just beg to be included in one long (not so) nice paragraph describing 2020’s realities. See for yourself:

    hantavirus (” a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people worldwide”) Doesn’t it remind you of something? In Russian, bats are called ‘flying mice’ if one translates word for word.

    open carry

    socially distance (I didn’t made it up!)

    spin doctor


    transgene (it is not a gene for being trans, I checked ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    womanism (because ‘feminism’ is not woke enough?)



    genetic fingerprinting

    search engine (your recent post on Google vs US)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My year… wow, I thought TCP/IP was much newer than that.

    Also included: urge incontinence, air guitar, NIMBY, yuppie, post-traumatic stress disorder, Guinea worm disease, foodie, gridlock…

    And my favorite triplet: ecofeminism, ecoterrorism, and ecotourism ๐Ÿ™‚


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