Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 1, 2016

Seventy-five-year wordfest

I Swear

Vic Fleming

I’m a word fanatic. Always have been. And the first of the year is never a bad time to reflect on what’s going on in the world of dictionarization. To set the stage, let’s first look at a progression of new dictionary entries—decade by decade—over the past 75 years. 

The 1940s gave us A-bomb, bikini, and cheeseburgers. It was in that decade that we first recognized displaced persons (DP’s), goofballs, jaycees, and jet planes. Our records became long-playing (LP), and we watched quiz shows on TV. Unless, we were snorkeling, using tape recorders, or taking a test-drive.

In the 1950s we started wearing Bermuda shorts, began exploring aerospace, went skydiving, and computerized stuff. That last thing had become necessary because of data processing. Beatniks, weirdos, and peacniks started hanging around while we desegregated places. Politicians employed doublespeak; people built geodesic domes, ate hash browns, and learned to generate junk mail

It was not until the 1960s that cable television got into the dictionary. By then we were watching sitcoms and instant replays. We began to study the genetic code, even in the counterculture. Doofuses and hippies suffered from jet lag in their pantsuits. Topics became trendy, such as the space shuttle. 

All of the foregoing helped us segue into the 1970s. In which consciousness-raising chairpersons wore leg warmers while driving gas-guzzlers. We listened to punk rock, as space cadets drove through Silicon Valley to detox. Diskettes, especially those for use in personal computers, were all the rage, along with video games, infomercials, and trail mix.

By the 1980s we were into automated-teller machines (ATMs), compact discs, designer drugs, and emoticons. Mall rats were racing around in their in-line skates, as their sandwich generation parents discussed managed care at microbreweries.

In the 1990s we started having bad hair days at our McJobs. Buffalo wing consumption went up, as we spent our flexdollars at Web sites (now spelled as one word, lowercase). The designated driver emerged, although not necessarily to take us to our superchurches. Visits to personal trainers became trendy, as we adjusted our scrunchies.

The first few years of this century have brought us bikini wax, brain freezes, and chick flicks. To say nothing of civil unions—which was still a new dictionarized term when same sex marriage got legalized via legislatures, courts, and lexicographers. Cybrarian—the person who finds, collects, and manages info found on websites—made it into 2006 dictionaries. As did retronym, a term applied to such phrases as film camera, forward slash, or live action

The very most recent ten-year span has given us ginormous, air quotes, and d’oh (thank you, Homer Simpson). As well as helicopter parents, tweep, frenemy, and emoji. In conclusion, I will not fail to mention meme, jegging, wingnut, and grrrl, the last of which I cannot wait to use in a crossword.  

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.