Trivia Teaser

Construction: What is a datum?

A reference point from which elevations are measured.
The lower part of a wall
A vertical window in a sloping roof.
Either of the vertical sides of a doorway or window

New Words


By Christine Lovatt

In her recent blog about 'mullets', Miranda discussed how the meaning of words can change over time. But sometimes, existing words just don't cut it and new words need to be thought up.  

In a time far in the future English readers may look back at this first quarter of the 21st century and sum it up by the new words that have been invented for our present needs.

Words form a mirror of their times and in this age of whizzbang technology, many hundreds and thousands of terms have come into being, to describe the new inventions and our interactions with them.

Looking back at words from different eras, we see that some words are still with us and others never caught on. In 1913, the word groceteria was used in America to describe a self-service grocery store. Twenty years later, the word supermarket made its entrance and is now much better known.

Some words can be traced back to events of the time such as both world wars. World War I gave us POW, Anzac, Nissen hut, shell shock, conscientious objector, storm troops, strafe, profiteer and D-Day, even though this is more often associated with WWII.

Words from that time that didn’t survive were spike-bozzle, meaning 'to destroy an enemy plane', san fairy ann, meaning ‘never mind’ from the French ‘ça ne fait rien’ and munitionette, female worker in a munitions factory.

WWII words are prang, bazooka, doodlebug, bomb-site, paratroops, blitz and black marketeer. Discontinued terms were parapants, women’s knickers made of parachute silk, passion killers, a nickname for the standard-issue knickers used in the women’s forces and sitrep, meaning ‘situation reported’.

Of course every invention needed a name, so when Arthur Wynne invented a new word-cross puzzle in 1913 it became known as a crossword puzzle. An early name for a jigsaw was a zigsaw, but only the former caught on. The yo-yo was first recorded in 1915 but the toy itself was not new. Before this it had been known as a bandalore, but a sudden craze spread through the western world and a new name was made up.

 YoYoAs John Ayto explains in his fascinating book ‘20th Century Words’, five percent of the new words entering the language in the 20th century were foreign borrowings. Food terms such as courgette, pizza, quiche and kebab or lifestyle changes such as yoga and kung-fu.

Try to guess which decade of the 20th century the following words were first introduced: hijack, jet set, disc jockey, road-kill, gender bender and glitz (answers next week!)

Happy puzzling!

Christine Lovatt


4 Responses to

New Words

March 08, 2012 at 1:16 PM

The word "hijack" puts a shiver up my spine. An air-hostess friend of mine was a victim of a hijacker, who held her hostage and shot the policeman who tried to negotiate with him. That was in the 60's in Alice Springs. Then there were dreadful pictures of a pilot being thrown to his death from a moving aircraft in Germany. These days people think of the Twin Towers episode, but it was just as dreadful 50 years ago.

Xrosie said:
March 09, 2012 at 7:35 AM

Not too good on decades, but would genderbender come from the 70s? It is interesting to follow through and work out how the meanings have changed also.

kragzy said:
March 12, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Well I'll be silly enough to try and guess. Hijack - I seem to recall this being used to describe aircraft hijacking when I was a teenager. So I'll guess the 60s. Jet Set - jet planes became the norm in the sixties so I'll guess 60s for this one too. Disc jockey - 50s (a total guess!) Road kill - 80s (another total guess) Gender bender - whilst the practice has been around forever, I'll guess that this term was first used in the sexually liberated 70s Glitz - I think this might be pretty old. I'll guess the 20s.

rapping said:
March 20, 2012 at 10:44 PM

HUH! how do u play games