1950: McCarthyism, radiocarbon dating
Other notable words: action figure, brainwashing, money market, shopping mall, subscription TV, telecourse
Senator Joseph McCarthy presented a list of alleged Communists working in the State Department in 1950, and the "Washington Post" used McCarthyism in a political cartoon that year. Radiocarbon dating results were based on oxalic acid, containing about the same radiocarbon content as a wood sample grown in 1950.
1951: Fast-food, manic-depressive illness
Other notable words: animal control, après-ski, birth control pill, cable television, lede, magnetic disk
Experiments in 1951 found that lithium was very beneficial for patients suffering with manic-depressive illness. Although begun as early as 1921, the rise of fast-food chains including KFC prompted dictionary acceptance of the term in 1951.
1952: Defibrillator, global warming
1953: Random-access memory, stiletto heel
1954: Anti-recessionary, trickle-down theory
Other notable words: cash flow, hard copy, junk mail, New York minute, surround sound, TV dinner
The so-called Eisenhower recession of 1953–54 was reportedly minimized by the passage of the anti-recessionary Revenue Act of 1954. The phrase ‘trickle-down theory’ was used as a joke attributed to Will Rogers in 1954.
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1955: Factor IX, fallout shelter
Other notable words: Big bang theory, home computer, microwave oven, mind-boggling, solar cell, veggie
Numerous research papers published in 1955 discussed factor IX, also known as the Christmas factor, and its connections with hemophilia. Fort Wayne realtor J.L. Haverstock began selling freestanding family fallout shelters in 1955 as a sideline.
1956: Fiber optics, gobsmacked
Other notable words: all-terrain vehicle, backlit, country rock, snooze button, worry beads, zilch
The fiberscope, an image-transmitting device, used the first all-glass fiber, dubbed fiber optics in 1956. Jack Reynolds, who published "A Woman of Bangkok" this year, wrote of being "properly gobsmacked."
1957: Asian flu, magic mushroom
Other notable words: bone spur, clip art, leaf blower, rumble strip, static cling, transsexual
The 1957 Asian flu pandemic was first identified in February in East Asia and spread to countries worldwide. A 1957 photo essay, "Seeking the Magic Mushroom" by amateur mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson, describes his experiences taking psilocybin mushrooms.
1958: Beatnik, Commonwealth Day
Other notable words: acetaminophen, beatnik, Lou Gehrig's disease, scuba diver, shotgun start, third world, Van Allen belt
Author Jack Kerouac, who introduced the Beat Generation in 1948, explained the concept of beatnik at a Brandeis forum in 1958. In Great Britain, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told Parliament ‘Empire Day’ would be changed to ‘Commonwealth Day,’ celebrating the Commonwealth of Nations.
1959: Apgar score, DEFCON
Other notable words: munchies, pantyhose, queen-size, Saturday night special, skateboard, tipping point
Developed in 1952 by Virginia Apgar, newborns worldwide are now examined for their health using the Apgar score, a term adopted by Merriam-Webster in 1959. Also this year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff defined the DEFCON military-readiness command system.
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