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This Dictionary Time Machine Tells You Which Words Were First Printed the Year You Were Born

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In 2018, the Oxford English Dictionary added words like beerfest, jumbotron, modder, antifa, binge-watch, and nothingburger, reflecting the awful, awful times we live in. But have you ever wondered what words officially entered our lexicon the year you were born? Probably not, but it turns out Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler tool is a fascinating archive of when certain technologies, trends, or pop-culture references came to be.

For example, one Gizmodo staffer discovered that the phrase, “elephant in the room” first appeared in print only as far back as 1985! You’d assume such a common saying would have been popularized as far back as colonial times when the British Crown ruled India and elephants were far more common than they were in England. But according to Merriam-Webster’s records, it first appeared in print only 33 years ago.


Yours truly was born in 1977, which apparently saw the first use of many phrases common in tech today including ‘optical disk,’ ‘Moore’s Law,’ ‘karaoke,’ and ‘text message.’ Even the word ‘techy’ only first appeared in print some 41 years ago, coinciding with the birth of the first personal computers.


Any surprises pop up in the year you were born? Or any phrases that make you feel older than you thought you were? Share them in the comments below.

[Merriam-Webster via Slorum]