New words that were born in the '70s
The 1970s ushered in a decade of revolution, from the pioneering of digital technology to the resurgence of a counterculture that sparked a wave of musical innovations. With these new developments and inventions came a lexicon of new words, from A to Z—and it's not just words like “groovy,” “rad,” or “funky.”
While the average English speaker already has more than a million words at their disposal, it's reported that 1,000 new words are added to the English vocabulary every year. The most recent additions to the dictionary? Crowdfunding, sudoku, twerk, and Brexit.
Even though an estimated 5,400 new words are born each year, only 1,000 or so make the cut as permanent dictionary additions. The most common method of forming new words is to add prefixes, such as de-, bi-, co-, and pre-, to the beginning of existing words. Some examples of words that have formed from this practice include demean, bipartisan, coexist, and prepay.
However, there are several other methods of word formation, like compounding two existing words, abbreviating a word, or borrowing words from other languages, and another method of word creation is “nonce words,” or words that don't have incredibly clear meaning, like “quark,” “bling,” or “fleek.”
Some words have even originated from mere errors or misspellings. For instance, the word “ammunition” comes from the French “la munition,” which was mistakenly heard by French soldiers as “l'amonition” during the Middle Ages. Even the word “sneeze” was originally a typo, with the root word being “fneze” in Middle English. Linguists have suggested that people may have misread the “f” as an “s,” thus giving rise to the word “sneeze.”
Using Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler feature, Stacker compiled a list five words from each year of the 1970s; some are synonymous with the decade itself, while others appear to be newer terms.
Click through to learn when the word “meme” came into existence and how the “carpaccio” dish got its name.
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“Dorky” comes from the word “dork,” which was used by college students in the Midwest as slang beginning around 1967 to describe a silly, oddly behaving person. The term originated during the 1950s or 1960s and was first used as a slang term for male genitalia. The first time “dork” was printed was in 1961 in Jere Peacock's book “Valhalla,” but was spelled as “dorque.”
“Mau-mau” is a verb that means to intimidate someone through hostile confrontation or threats. The word was originally a noun that referred to a 1950s-era secret society in Kenya that sought to push out European settlers through terrorist activities, but became used as a verb after Tom Wolfe's book, “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers,” was published in 1970. Wolfe used the term “mau-mau” to describe a corrupt government office in San Francisco that administered programs to combat poverty.
“Granola” was actually first used in the 1870s, when Dr. John Kellogg took the crumbs that fell to the bottom of his oven when he baked whole grain bread and served them for breakfast. He originally called his invention “granula”—which referred to the granular texture of the food—but the word was already trademarked, so he changed the “u” to an “o.” Granola came back into popularity in 1970, when food companies started using the word to describe breakfast cereals and snack bars.
“Shambolic,” meaning obviously disorganized or confused, is an adjective popularized in the United Kingdom and was first printed in the Times of London on June 18, 1970, although some suggest the word was used decades earlier. The word is thought to be a combination of the words “shambles” and “symbolic,” and while it is mainly still used across the pond, it has popped up in recent years in American publications. Today, most dictionaries recognize “shambolic” as slang or an informal term.
Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural celebration held every year from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, and is derived from the Swahili word “kwanza,” meaning “first.” The holiday was the brainchild of Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 in California and was originally celebrated by cultural nationalists, but it is now celebrated by 18 million people across the globe from all backgrounds. Kwanzaa became incorporated into American culture between its first celebration in 1966 and 1970.
A “tchotchke” refers to a knickknack or inexpensive souvenir and originally came from the Yiddish language, where it was spelled “tshatshke.” The Yiddish word came from the now-obsolete Polish word, “czaczko.” Although the word's origins are extensive, “tchotchke” wasn't absorbed into the English language until the 1970s.
An octothorpe is the # symbol, also commonly called a hash or the number sign. The exact origin of the word is unknown, but the “octo” part of the word is thought to refer to the eight points of the symbol. One of the legends around the word claims that it came to be at Bell Labs in the 1960s, where an engineer supposedly decided that the # symbol needed a new name so decided to name it after Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe.
The word “gonzo” was first printed in a 1971 Rolling Stone article by Hunter S. Thompson, but Thompson has credited Boston Globe editor Bill Cardoso with using the word first to describe something bizarre or strange. Today, the word is most often associated with “gonzo journalism,” which is defined as reporting that is particularly subjective because of the writer's familiarity with a subject. Gonzo is also an Italian word with a similar meaning: fool or simpleton.
A “trifecta” refers to a group of three desirable things and first popped up in the 1970s in the world of horse-racing, where the term was used to describe a horse-racing bet in which the first place, second place, and third place winners are chosen in the correct order. The prefix of the word “tri” means three, while the suffix is a version of the word “perfecta,” which is an American-Spanish word that describes a horse-racing bet in which the first- and second-place winners are correctly picked.
“Fintech” is short for financial technology and describes services and businesses that use digital and online technology in the banking industry. While fintech has been around since 1970, the term especially took off in the 1990s after an article in American Banker used the word to describe a project undertaken by Citigroup to facilitate technological cooperation efforts. Today, fintech has expanded to include concepts that would have been considered outrageous in the 1970s, such as cryptocurrency and bitcoin.2018 All rights reserved.