Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

The word is …

Seahorses on beach

Want to feel your age? How’s this?

I was doling out headaches before there was “acetaminophen.” I’ve been causing a stink since before “refried beans.” Heck, I predated “decaf.” I’ve been around since before “certified mail.”

I know this thanks to a site provided by Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, called Time Traveler.

What they’ve done is group, by year, what they call “first known use,” the earliest recorded use in English of the oldest sense of the word defined in the entry. For example, in the second paragraph, the noted words were dated, in order, 1958, 1957, 1956 and 1955.

I solicited volunteers through Facebook and came up with these:

Darsha’s parents were married in 1994. Debuting in usage that year were Botox, cybercafe, dot-com, LASIK, MP3, pole dancing, roofie, spoiler alert, spyware, task bar, webcam and wifebeater (for a man’s white tank top).

Tina was married in 1978. Entering the English lexicon that year were attention deficit disorder, bed and breakfast, bustier, chemical peel, control key, dramedy, face time, gimme cap, half-pipe, hepatitis C, improv, off-grid, pad thai, sticky note and Stockholm syndrome.

Vicki was born in 1960. Added to the things she was yet to learn were AC/DC, a-go-go, arcade game, brain drain, cockamamy, coin-op, dial-up, discotheque, Eurodollar, hardnose, hate crime, health spa, junk food, kook, lab coat, mayo, square one, theme park and valet parking.

Pick a date and dive in, but I warn you it could turn into a time suck (first used in 1991).

Oh, one other point. The dictionary is not limited to our life spans. Consider the words allied, bowler, bulldog, dexterity, laughingstock, opulent, reportable and trash.

Take a guess as to when they were first printed. Try 500 years ago … 1518. Wish them a “happy birthday” and they should understand as both of those words have been around since the 14th century.

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