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14 Common Words That Didn't Exist 20 Years Ago

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If you want proof of how fast our world is changing, you only have to look at our language. Our everyday vocabulary is full of neologisms, expressing ideas that we wouldn't even have understood not long ago. Here are 14 commonly used words that didn't even exist a generation ago.

1) Blog

Everyone has a blog these days, and it’s kind of been that way since about 1999 — the same year “weblog” was shortened to blog by Peter Merholz as a joke. Wrote Merholtz: "For What It's Worth I've decided to pronounce the word "weblog" as wee'- blog. Or "blog" for short." The word was picked up by the website Jargon Scout and quickly spread from there, until blogs were both a personal form of expression and a new type of media. In 2004 it was Merriam Webster’s Word of the Year.


2) Google

It’s rare to go a day without googling something, and you probably use the phrase “Google it” on a semi-regular basis. It didn’t become an official word until 2006, but it was the American Dialect Society’s most useful word of 2002. As for its first official usage, that came in a 1998 mailing list from Google co-founder Larry Page. But it wasn’t until “Help,” an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that the verb hit television. Don’t believe us? Google it.

3) Mashup

People have been combining songs as early as the ‘50s, but the word mashup didn’t show up until this style of music became popular at the turn of the millennium. Now there are mashup DJs who specialize in taking other people's songs and mashing them up, generating millions of downloads — and mashup clubs happen all around the world. They got a burst of legitimacy from the network TV show Glee, and they’ve been a mainstay of the industry ever since.


4) Bromance

This magical, non-sexual relationship between two men was coined by Dave Carnie, in the skateboard magazine Big Brother, but saw major use following Big Brother 7. This was when two contestants developed what may be the first time two men knew what to call that flutter that filled their heart when they talked about sports and stuff (a favorite subject in many bromances). Some people look down on a healthy bromance, but that’s just because they don’t understand them.

5) Supercut

A supercut is a compilation of a large number of short video clips, typically showing examples of a repeated or clichéd action or phrase in films or broadcast. And this term was first used on April 11th, 2008 by blogger Andy Baio. He described a supercut as: “A) genre of video meme, where some obsessive-compulsive superfan collects every phrase/action/cliche from an episode (or entire series) of their favorite show/film/game into a single massive video montage.”


The first supercut designed to mock a cliche was the YouTube video “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” (above.)


6) Cyberstalking

You may have cyberstalked someone without realizing it — and there’s also a chance that you’ve consciously done it. It’s not necessarily your fault though, — the Internet and Facebook kind of enabled you. Before either of those things existed, it often took too much effort to stalk someone. You had to climb in trees and probably invest in a good pair of binoculars. Also there was the chance that you’d be caught and shamed by your local community. But the anonymity offered by the Internet makes cyberstalkers into us all. Keep in mind though, cyberstalking doesn’t have to be sexual in nature. Some people just have really cute pets and you have to look through all their pictures. All the time. See also: cyber-bullying.

7) Omnishambles

This portmanteau combines "omni," meaning "all," and "shambles," meaning total clusterfuck. The term was first used by Peter Capaldi (aka the next Doctor!) in the third season premiere of The Thick of It. Capaldi’s character yells at another character who had a very bad first day: “Not only have you got a fucking bent husband and a fucking daughter that gets taken to school in a fucking sedan chair, you're also fucking mental. Jesus Christ, see you, you're a fucking omnishambles, that's what you are. You're like that coffee machine, you know: from bean to cup, you fuck up.” The word was then applied to real life British politics and was used by British MP Ed Miliband in 2012 to criticise the government budget: “On charities, the reality is that the Prime Minister is not making the rich worse off. He is making charities worse off. Over the past month we have seen the charity tax shambles, the churches tax shambles, the caravan tax shambles and the pasty tax shambles, so we are all keen to hear the Prime Minister’s view on why he thinks, four weeks on from the Budget, even people within Downing Street are calling it an omnishambles Budget.” The word was Oxford Dictionary’s 2012 Word of the Year.


8) Paywall

This is the device on a website that prevents you from accessing some content unless you've paid to subscribe — and it's become a common term for restricted access. In January 1997, the Wall Street Journal was the first major website to put up a paywall. Many new organizations and websites have followed, charging readers for access to some or all of the content. The practice has had varying success rates.


9) Muggle

This term may have started out in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, to refer to non-magical people — but it's become a blanket term for someone who isn't conversant with a particular set of skills, or a particular activity. Rowling has said that it comes from the British slang "mug," meaning an easily fooled person. The word has gained popularity and is used all over the word. It was was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 with the definition “a person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.” Note: Apparently in the 1920s people in New Orleans used the word muggle to refer to marijuana. Rowling was unaware of this.


10) Staycation

The meaning of this term is pretty obvious — a vacation where you stay home instead of going on an expensive trip. "Staycation" first appeared in print in a 2003 Myrtle Beach Sun News article. Terry Massey wrote:

By definition, a "vacation" should involve vacating, as in going away. Mine was more like a "stay-cation" — nine glorious days and nights in Myrtle Beach. Millions of tourists do the same, and understandably so. But when you live here year-round, the last thing you want to do is go through the summertime blues in your own backyard, even if it happens to have an ocean.


In 2005 the term was used by Brent Butt on the show Corner Gas. By 2008 it was being commonly used, as more people started having staycations due to high gas prices. In 2009 it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and in 2010 it was added to the OED.


11) Sexting

Hard to believe the term "sexting" only appeared for the first time in 2004, when The Globe and Mail reported on a text messaging incident involving David Beckham. They wrote: “Text messaging (also known as Short Message Systems or SMS) has become the new phone sex," the article reported, adding that "for many people, 'sext messaging' has a disinhibiting effect, like having a couple of cocktails.” The term gained popularity in 2008 when it was used by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and when they reported that 1 in 5 teens had been involved with sending naked pictures over text messaging. Recently New York Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned after a scandal involving sexting. Image via Reagan Plus Cats.


12) Upcycle

This combination of "up" and "recycle," means using discarded objects to create a product that's actually of higher quality or value. The word was first used in 1994 by Thornton Kay in an article in Salvo. He wrote:

We talked about the impending EU Demolition Waste Streams directive. "Recycling," he said, "I call it downcycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is upcycling — where old products are given more value, not less." He despairs of the German situation and recalls the supply of a large quantity of reclaimed woodblock from an English supplier for a contract in Nuremberg while just down the road a load of similar blocks was scrapped. In the road outside his premises, was the result of the Germans' demolition waste recycling. It was a pinky looking aggregate with pieces of handmade brick, old tiles and discernible parts of useful old items mixed with crushed concrete. Is this the future for Europe?


Upcycling gained popularity when William McDonough and Michael Braungart used it in 2002 in their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Since then it has become a movement to change the way we live and focus on reusing things that otherwise would have been thrown away.


13) Locavore

This term combines roots from two Latin words: locus meaning place, and vorare meaning to swallow. The word "locavore" was created by San Francisco area food enthusiast Jessica Prentice in 2005 as a name for people who mainly eat food produced within a 250-mile radius of where they live. The phrase quickly moved into the public consciousness as it was used in numerous articles and Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In 2007 locavore was the Oxford Word of the Year. Image via PBS.


14) Hater

Haters have existed ever since one person was capable of being jealous of another — but the word itself didn’t see mainstream use until the ‘90s. Continuing the trend of hip-hop’s strong influence on modern culture, this word gets a lot of mileage these days. ICE T used “hater” in his 1999 song “Don’t Hate Tha Player,” but its most popular form is in the phrase “haters gonna hate,” which came from a 3LW song from the year 2000, “Playas Gon’ Play.” The phrase “haters gonna hate” eventually spawned its own Internet meme, which is often used despite the user not actually having any haters.