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Looking back at a century in words; Every year is marked by events which influence the way we define our lives - and our language. Finola Lynch reports.

So how was 1998 for you? Was it dominated by the Monica Lewinsky affair and US President Bill Clinton's hilarious definition of "sexual relations" which saw the word Zippergate coined?

Or did your year peak when the sex wonder drug Viagra was launched, which spawned the phenomena of born-again geriatrics claiming to have rediscovered their stallion prowess, not to mention a plethora of bad taste jokes.

Will 1998 be remembered as the year when Digital TV was launched? Or will pictures of submerged towns like Shrewsbury and Bewdley hit by a swollen River Severn last month stay in your mind long after the year has passed?

With the Millennium on the horizon headlines have been dominated by the progress of the Greenwich Dome, but 1998 has also seen the start of a manufacturing recession and an obsession with national interest rates now regulated by the Bank of England.

Every year is marked by events, political and social which have influenced the way we define our lives. A glance at the Collins English Dictionary Millennium Edition illustrates the words which came into common usage in every year of the 20th century, pr oviding an interesting document of what shaped the 1900s.

The origins of words varies dramatically from year to year, depending on an important event, a scientific discovery or a trend in popular culture.

Politics understandably dominates our constantly changing language. In 1918 the word Bolshie came into currency, following the Russian Revolution, but just one year later the word Fascism entered the lexicography.

Born within a year of each other, both diametrically opposing ideologies went on to dominate the political landscape of the century.

The first half of the century was also dominated by two world wars, which also introduced words such as Tank, Air Raid, Jeep and Radar. The word which defines the 20th century has already been picked - Television - but other technological advances have d efined years.

Hovercraft was coined in 1959, Ceefax in 1974 and Information Superhighway in 1993.

But the Collins dictionary has also selected words which suggest cultural or social trends can have just as much impact on our lives. The word Nylon sums up 1938, Bikini in 1942 and Discotheque in 1951.

As the first teenagers came into their own and London started to swing words like Miniskirt, Moog Synthesizer and Montezuma's Revenge started to appear in every-day speech.

In our current decade Ethnic Cleansing, National Lottery and Road Rage have appeared, with Blairite defining 1997 when Labour seized power for the first time since 1974.

1998 may be almost over but you can still make your mark and be pounds 1,000 richer. Collins is running a competition to find a word which defines this year. It is open to individuals and schools.

The best school entry will win pounds 1,000 of Collins books for their school while the best individual entry will get a fat cheque for the same amount. Twenty runners-up will win a Millennium Edition of Collins English Dictionary worth pounds 29.99.

The Post's nomination is Viagra but there are plenty of ideas to choose from.

Good luck.

How to Enter

Write your word clearly on a postcard and say in a tie-breaker sentence of not more than 15 words why you feel it defines 1998.

If entering as a school, mark your postcard clearly 'School' and send it to: Define 1998, HarperCollins Publishers, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, London, W2 8JB. Closing date is December 31, 1998.

Winners will be chosen from the people who vote for the most popular word.

Collins lexicographers will judge the winning sentence. Winners will be notified by post.

1900: Labour Party

1901: Fingerprint

1902: Teddy Bear

1903: Tarmac

1904: FIFA

1905: Sinn Fein

1902: Suffragette

1907: Allergy

1908: Borstal

1909: Jazz

1910: Girl Guide

1911: Air Raid

1912: Schizophrenia

1913: Isotope (n one of two or more atoms with the same atomic number that contain different numbers of neutrons)

1914: Vorticism (n an art movement initiated by Wyndham Lewis)

1915: Tank

1912: Dada (n nihilistic artistic movement)

1917: Cheka (n the secret police set up by the Bolshevik government)

1918: Bolshie

1919: Fascism

1920: Robot

1921: Chaplinesque

1922: Gigolo

1923: Spoonerism

1924: Surrealism

1925: British Summer Time

1922: Television

1927: Talkie

1928: Penicillin

1929: Maginot Line

1930: Pluto

1931: Oscar

1932: Neutron

1933: Gestapo

1934: Belisha Beacon

1935: Alcoholics Anonymous

1932: Mickey Mouse (adjective)

1937: Dil, Taoiseach

1938: Nylon

1939: Walter Mitty

1940: Jeep

1941: Radar

1942: Robotics

1943: Dam Busters

1944: Doodlebug

1945: Tupperware

1942: Bikini

1947: Flying Saucer

1948: Scrabble

1949: Big Brother

1950: NATO

1951: Discotheque

1952: Stoned

1953: Rock and Roll

1954: Teddy Boy

1955: Lego

1952: Angry Young Man

1957: Psychedelic

1958: Silicon Chip

1959: Hovercraft

1920: Laser

1921: Catch-22

1922: Montezuma's Revenge (n Informal an acute attack of infectious diarrhoea)

1923: Rachmanism (n extortion by a landlord of tenants of slum property)

1924: Moog Synthesizer

1925: Miniskirt

1922: Cultural Revolution

1927: Pulsar (n any of a number of very small extremely dense stars)

1928: Fosbury Flop (n a modern high-jumping technique)

1929: Lunar Module

1970: Butterfly Effect (n chaos theory)

1971: Workaholic

1972: Watergate

1973: VAT

1974: Ceefax

1975: Fractal (n Maths, a figure or surface generated by successive subdivisions of a simpler polygon or polyhedron)

1972: Punk Rock

1977: European Monetary System

1978: Test-Tube Baby

1979: Rubik Cube

1980: Solidarity

1981: SDP

1982: Compact Disc

1983: Aids

1984: Yuppie

1985: Glasnost

1982: Mexican Wave

1987: PEP

1988: Acid House

1989: Velvet Revolution (n the peaceful overthrow of the Czechoslovak communist regime)

1990: Crop Circle

1991: Ethnic Cleansing

1992: Clone

1993: Information Superhighway

1994: National Lottery

1995: Road Rage

1992: Alcopop

1997: Blairite

1998: ????
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Author:Lynch, Finola
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 4, 1998
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