Printer Friendly


EVERY year, there is one new word, or phrase, that sums up the moment.

In 1900, the buzzwords were the Labour Party, the political group that promised to change the world.

It survived the test of time - unlike 1914's vorticism, which pipped brassiere for the word of that year.

Year by year, publishers Harpers Collins have charted the new words which changed our language.

Now they are all together in the fascinating book, Words Of The Century.

KEN OXLEY has had a peek through it to see how the times - and the meaning of words - have changed. Here is his wordsmith's year-by-year guide to the 20th century ...

1900: LABOUR PARTY - Called many names today, including Blair's Babes, New Labour or even Old Tory. But back then, in the year the movement was formed, the Labour Party stood for true socialist ideals.

1901: FINGERPRINT - It made a big impression (as well as a small one) when it was discovered that no two were alike. But they are now being overtaken as an aid to solving crime by genetic fingerprinting.

1902: TEDDY BEAR - Supposedly named after US President Theodore Roosevelt after he spared the life of a bear cub while out hunting. Today's equivalent might be a Clinton- inspired cuddly toy that drops its trousers. A Billy Bare, perhaps?

1903: TARMAC - Derived from Tarmacadam, invented by Scots engineer John Macadam.

1904: FIFA - An acronym, as all fans know, for Federation Internationale de Football Association.

1905: SINN FEIN - Founded in this year when Gerry Adams was just a twinkle in his great grandfather's eye.

1906: SUFFRAGETTE - The term was coined by a newspaper reporter from the word suffrage (the right to vote). They chained themselves to railings to publicise their cause.

1907: ALLERGY - Allergic reactions have been around for centuries, but the term only found its way into the dictionary in this year.

1908: BORSTAL - Named after a village in Kent, where the first institution for young offenders was founded.

1909: JAZZ - Originally, the word was US slang for "to speed or liven up".

1910: GIRL GUIDE - The Boy Scouts were already up and running when founder Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes bowed to pressure for a similar organisation for girls.

1911: AIR RAID - The very first air raid was carried out in this year by an Italian biplane which dropped two hand-held bombs on a Libyan air base.

1912: SCHIZOPHRENIA - Derived from the Greeks words Skhizein (to split) and phren (mind), it was first coined by German psychologist Eugen Bleuler. But was he in two minds about it?

1913: ISOTOPE - It's one of two or more atoms having the same atomic number but differing in atomic weight and mass number. So there.

1914: VORTICISM - A short-lived artistic movement that combined the techniques of cubism and futurism. Runner-up this year was the far more interesting "brassiere".

1915: TANK - The first tanks were commissioned by the British Army on the advice of Winston Churchill in this year. The prototype was nicknamed "Big Willie".

1916: DADA - The art-world equivalent of punk rock, this movement was dubbed anti-art by its critics. Its founders named the movement by choosing a random word from the dictionary - dada being a children's word for hobbyhorse.

1917: CHEKA - Secret police set up by the Bolshevik government, using terror and torture against its enemies. Later to become the KGB.

1918: BOLSHIE - adapted from Bolshevik and meaning difficult to manage or rebellious.

1919: FACISM - The word actually derives from fasces, a type of axe used by magistrates in ancient Rome as a symbol of their power.

1920: ROBOT - We had them long before R2D2 came on the scene - derived from the Czech word robota, to work.

1921: CHAPLINESQUE - Everyone knows the term Pythonesque, but Charlie Chaplin was the John Cleese of his day. His tragi-comic portrayal of "the little tramp" drew many imitators.

1922: GIGOLO - Back then, it was the generic term for a toyboy.

1923: SPOONERISM - Basically means getting the first letters of your words mixed up - for example, "Good Consternoon Aftable" instead of "Good Afternoon Constable".

1924: SURREALISM - Today we think of Harry Hill as surreal, but back in the 1920s, the likes of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte blew people's minds with their bizarre images.

1925: BRITISH SUMMER TIME - Intro-duced by the Daylight Saving Act with the intention of providing an extra hour of daylight for agricultural work.

1926: TELEVISION - From the Greek words tele, meaning far, and vision, meaning sight. Invented by Scot John Logie Baird. Television, according to Harper Collins, is not only the word of 1926 - it's the word of the century.

1927: TALKIE - Cinema audiences gasped as sound and vision were synchronised for the first time in The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson. Al quite rightly told them: "You ain't heard nothing yet."

1928: PENICILLIN - One of the most important discoveries of the century came about when Alexander Fleming accidentally left some bacteria lying at the lab for a few days and returned to find it had developed a mould that halted the bacteria's growth.

1929: MAGINOT LINE - Built by French Prime Minister Andre Maginot to keep out the Germans. It didn't work and has since become the term for any line of defence in which blind confidence is placed.

1930: PLUTO - The planet, not the dopey Disney dog. Discovered this year by C. W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory, Arizona. The name - after the Greek god of the underworld - was suggested by an 11-year-old Oxford schoolgirl.

1931: OSCAR - On seeing one of the Academy Award statuettes for the first time, an official allegedly remarked: "It reminds me of my Uncle Oscar." The name stuck.

1932: NEUTRON - The name given to an elementary particle, first discovered in this year.

1933: GESTAPO - Secret state police set up by Goring, and soon to become infamous for their brutal methods.

1934: BELISHA BEACON - Named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the British minister of transport who introduced them. An early entry for 21st century words might well be the Prescott Toll.

1935: ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS - Set up in this year as a support group by reformed alcoholics.

1936: MICKEY MOUSE - He'd been around for a while, but it was in this year that his name was first used as an adjective, meaning trivial.

1937: DA'IL, TAOISEACH - The Irish-Gaelic words for the parliament in the Republic of Ireland, set up this year. Runner-up this year was "groovy".

1938: NYLON - Patented this year in the States by chemist W H Carothers. We have him to thank for silky smooth legs and pugilistic bank robbers.

1939: WALTER MITTY - The name given to any habitual daydreamer after the character in a James Thurber novel, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

1940: JEEP - There are two schools of thought on the word's origins. Either it's from the initials GP, standing for general purpose (vehicle), or it's influenced by Popeye's comic strip pal, Eugene the Jeep, who could do almost anything.

1941: RADAR - Originally called radiolocation, it comes from an abbreviation of the phrase RAdio Detecting And Ranging.

1942: ROBOTICS - The word, invented by science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, became accepted as a general term by scientists.

1943: DAM BUSTERS - Nickname for RAF bombers. More recently we've had ghostbusters and stressbusters.

1944: DOODLEBUG - A user-friendly name for the V-1, a robot bomb invented by the Germans.

1945: TUPPERWARE - Introduced by American engineer Earl Tupper. Tupperware parties began as a marketing gimmick. The idea caught on and has been much copied.

1946: BIKINI - Named after the US nuclear weapons testing site Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands - apparently the site of a woman in a bikini in 1946 had the same devastating effect.

1947: FLYING SAUCER - In June of this year, a US pilot described seeing unidentified flying objects which moved "like saucers skipping across the water." The term stuck.

1948: SCRABBLE - Invented in the 1930s and originally called Criss-Cross, its name changed this year and it quickly became a best-seller. Fifty years on, it's still going strong.

1949: BIG BROTHER - From George Orwell's classic novel, 1984. The inspiration behind the book was the Soviet Union. Another word from the book, "newspeak", entered the dictionary in the same year.

1950: NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, formed the previous year.

1951: DISCOTHEQUE - Long since shortened to disco. No-one, apart from U2, uses the old term anymore.

1952: STONED - First used by New York jazz musicians to sum up their state of mind while under the influence of drink or drugs ... or both.

1953: ROCK AND ROLL - Personified by Elvis - the pelvis - Presley, the phrase was originally black slang for sex.

1954: TEDDY BOY - So called because they wore mock Edwardian clothing, not because they were cuddly.

1955: LEGO - Invented in Denmark in the 30s, it became a hit in this year.

1956: ANGRY YOUNG MEN - Term applied to a group of writers who were openly hostile towards established tradition. They included John Osbourne, author of Look Back In Anger and Kingsley Amis, who wrote Lucky Jim.

1957: PSYCHEDELIC - Yup, the word which best described the way half the nation felt during the Swinging Sixties was around long before they swung.

1958: SILICON CHIP - Without them, your computer wouldn't exist. Manufacturing bases for the chips have since been named after them. California has its Silicon Valley while Scotland has Silicon Glen.

1959: HOVERCRAFT - Designed by British engineer Christopher Cockerell, the world's first working hovercraft was launched this year.

1960: LASER - Another invention that has shaped the century. Its name comes from the initial letters of the phrase "Light Amplification by Stimulation Emission of Radiation."

1961: CATCH-22 - Culled from the eponymous Joseph Heller novel about US pilots feigning insanity to be excused active duty. But wanting to be excused implied they were concerned about their safety and therefore sane.

1962: MONTEZUMA'S REVENGE - An attack of diarrhoea, named after Montezuma II, the last Aztec emperor of Mexico. Similar to Delhi Belly.

1963: RACHMANISM - Named after Polish-born London landlord Perec Rachman, who had a string of squalid properties. Another contender this year was Beatlemania.

1964: MOOG SYNTHESIZER - Named after its inventor, American engineer Robert Moog.

1965: MINI-SKIRT - The reason why the Swinging Sixties swung. Most of the credit goes to fashion icon Mary Quant, the first to market it.

1966: CULTURAL REVOLUTION - China knocked itself back centuries by following Mao Tse Tung into destroying the ruling powers and making the country a peasant one again.

1967: PULSAR - Small dense stars which rotate very fast and emit pulses of radiation. "Psychedelia" was also a contender this year.

1968: FOSBURY FLOP - Named after Dick Fosbury, who won Olympic Gold by going backwards over the high jump bar, rather than using the then-traditional scissor-kick.

1969: LUNAR MODULE - The vehicle used to land Apollo astronauts on the Moon.

1970: BUTTERFLY EFFECT - Coined by Edward Lorenz, who claimed a butterfly's flapping wings could set off a train of events that may lead to a hurricane in another part of the world.

1971: WORKAHOLIC - A person who can't say no to more work. If only Margaret Thatcher hadn't been one.

1972: WATERGATE - A break-in at the American Democrats HQ that led to the resignation of President Nixon. Now synonymous with any political scandal. Just ask Bill.

1973: VAT - Probably the least popular addition to the language - the abbreviation for Value Added Tax.

1974: CEEFAX - Based on the words See Fax, this was the BBC's first information Teletext service. "Streaking" also made a shocking entry this year.

1975: FRACTUAL - Any hippy worth his dreads has a Fractual T-shirt design made by a computer repeating a specific maths formula. Sloane Rangers also made an appearance this year.

1976: PUNK ROCK - Originally, punk meant a prostitute, then a worthless person. But the Sex Pistols used it to describe their brash music style.

1977: EUROPEAN MONETARY SYSTEM - First proposed by Roy Jenkins in this year as a system to stabilise money between European countries.

1978: TEST-TUBE BABY - Louise Brown was the first test-tube baby, conceived by artificial insemination.

1979: RUBIK CUBE - The six-sided coloured cube puzzle that engrossed - or infuriated if you couldn't do it.

1980: SOLIDARITY - Led by Lech Walesa, his fellow Polish trade unionists became the symbols of opposition to the communists.

1981: SDP - The Social Democratic Party promised to be a new force, but failed to set British politics alight.

1982: COMPACT DISC - Since it arrived in this year, it has nearly killed off vinyl and tapes. Filofax was another word on every city slicker's lips.

1983: AIDS - The disease caused a panic around the world and signified the end of free love and the start of safe sex.

1984: YUPPIE - Young upwardly mobile professionals - or arrogant, rich know-alls. Depends if you're one of them.

1985: GLASNOST - Mikhail Gorbachev tried to modernise the USSR with a new openness.

1986: MEXICAN WAVE - The wave for bored spectators came to prominence in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

1987: PEP - Chancellor Nigel Lawson introduced this new way of investing in shares of British companies.

1988: ACID HOUSE - The second summer of love changed Britain's clubbing and caused panic among parents with the increase of ecstasy use.

1989: VELVET REVOLUTION - The peaceful overthrow of the Czechoslovak communist regime by its citizens.

1990: CROP CIRCLES - Alien spaceships, bored students or freak weather - the patterns in fields are still unexplained.

1991: ETHNIC CLEANSING - Used to describe the Serbs' treatment of the Croats and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia who were driven out of their homes and country.

1992: CLONE - Not human cloning, but phone cloning, which accounts for pounds 100million per year in stolen phones called clones.

1993: INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY - US Vice-President Al Gore coined the term to explain the Internet.

1994: NATIONAL LOTTERY - Britain turned into a nation of gamblers as our first National Lottery began.

1995: ROAD RAGE - Car owners abusing and hitting each other dominated the news.

1996: ALCOPOPS - Children loved these fruit-flavoured alcoholic drinks. Parents and the police didn't.

1997: BLAIRITE - Tony Blair became Prime Minister and continued his modernisation of the Labour Party and Britain.

1998: ZIPPERGATE - The tawdry tale of President Bill Clinton and young White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

1999: WHAT DO YOU THINK? Send your predictions - serious or funny - for the buzzwords of 1999 to: Voice Of Scotland, Daily Record, Anderston Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Features
Author:Oxley, Ken
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 28, 1998
Previous Article:LAST NIGHT; Fast Show pair moved too slowly to be funny.
Next Article:Heg's Jess the man for Dons.

Related Articles
Mickey Mouse and Disney Pals are Children's Favorite Teachers in Three New Learning CD-ROMs; ``Disney's Mickey Mouse Toddler,'' ``Preschool'' and...
All-New Disney Store Debuts at South Coast Plaza; Popular Disney Characters, Store Executives and Skating Champion Michelle Kwan Unveil New Store.
The end: What year are we in?; OK, time travellers, all aboard the Tardis, we're about to peel back the years, but where will we end up? Here are...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters