Apr 29, 2016

Twelve Words Turning 40

Words that are forty years old during 2016 include:

While beer belly had been around since 1942, beer gut arrived in 1976.

This blend of Bombay and Hollywood, used to refer to the Indian film industry, was first used in a 1976 Inspector Ghote mystery novel by H.R.F. Keating.

While we already had baby boom to describe the increase in births after World War II, and were already referring to the members of this generation as baby boomers by 1970, during 1976 the generational label was shortened to just boomers.

The first citation we have for Trekkie, (an admirer of the U.S. science fiction television program Star Trek) comes from a 1976 New Yorker caption reading, “Of course, I didn't know George was a Trekkie when I married him.”

The earliest citation for chicken nugget is from a 1976 ad in a Jackson, Missouri phone book for Troy’s Fish House. “Catfish ‘All You Can Eat.’ Shrimp—Oysters—Steak. Chicken Nuggets—Burgers.” It wasn’t until the early '80s that the McDonald’s Chicken McNugget introduced.

Hackers were calling themselves hackers before 1976, but the first print citation of hacker showed up that year and was defined by various publications around that period as a “compulsive programmer,” a “home-computer nut,” or “someone who spends much of his time writing computer programs.”

The first Ebola outbreak occurred in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, and the virus was identified and named after the river.

PMS was first used as an abbreviation for “the premenstrual syndrome,” in a 1976 Lancet (medical journal) article.

It was during the 1976 presidential election race between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford that the term 'exit poll' was used to describe a poll asking how individuals leaving a polling station had voted. It is used to predict the result of an election.

The phrase Super Tuesday was first used to refer to the general election, but during the 1976 presidential race it was in reference to the primaries. From a New York Times article about how “New York would open up a string of victories on super-Tuesday, June 8, in California, Ohio and New Jersey.”

MEME (pronounced meem)
Richard Dawkins introduced the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene: “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. Mimeme comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like gene. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.”

Iconic is an old word for “pertaining to an icon or image,” but it was 40 years ago that it first came to be used as a way to refer to “a person or thing regarded as representative of a culture or movement; important or influential in a particular (cultural) context.”

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