Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Happy 50th Birthday to these words!


I was 50 years old before I learned I was born the same year as the word “dipshit.”

It was like the world in 1963 took one long look at me and said, “Nope, moron, idiot and imbecile are insufficient. We need something truly loathsome yet oddly whimsical to describe this one. How about … dipshit!”

I guess I’m glad my folks named me Christopher.

I began sleuthing word birthdays about 15 years ago when I began a quest to coin a new word in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, the first and last word on words.

I figured my shot at linguistic immortality would be easier if it involved writing one really memorable word instead of one entire book with upwards of 75,000 previously used words.

At the time I was paying $295 a year for computer access to the OED and its 730,000 — and counting! — words. By comparison, your standard old school door stop dictionary contains about 140,000. These are formidable numbers, especially when you consider the average American uses just 20,000 words.

Why would anyone pay $295-a-year for access to something so redundant and unnecessary?

For me, it was the word birthdays. OED notes the exact year words became words. I learned, for instance, that the word computer is 400 years old. Yes, before they became essential, computers were people capable of computing.

And, of course, I looked up all my favorite swear words.

I for many years compiled a list of words when they turned 50. I got away from it for two reasons. One, I was irrationally insulted to learn the OED linked my birthday to a word as coarse as dipshit:  “n. A stupid, inept, or contemptible person; an idiot.”

It was like paying for a hooker and having her joke about your genitals.

I imagine.

Plus I learned you didn’t need to pay OED $295 a year if you had one valid library card. I at the time had four. 

I know what you’re thinking …


But I thought on this day of hope and new beginnings it would be fitting to revive (1553) a tradition (1637) as a way of saluting (1450) the inaugural (1689) festivities (1604).

Cheers (1915)! 

airhead — I prefer airheads to cementheads, but believe density is winning.

Amtrak — If I had my way, I’d take an annual family trip on the train. Just love it.

• Anti-racism — Just 50 years old. It’s sure given racism (1850) a head start.

Archie Bunker — “A man whose background, outlook, and behaviour are likened to those of the television character Archie Bunker, esp. a blue-collar worker having (and vehemently expressing) views considered ignorant or bigoted.”

B and D — Bondage and Discipline. Never heard of it. Not into it

biker bar

bong — Bong turns 50 … far out!


• Deadhead — Maybe my best line: “If fans of the band The Grateful Dead are called Deadheads, what does that make those of us who revere the book “Moby Dick?”

double album — This one warms my heart. Getting a great double album — “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Exile on Main Street” — was to me like becoming a father before I became a father.

• fart-catcher —“n. A servile assistant or follower; a lackey, a hanger-on.” Oh, how I wish my situation allowed for me to introduce someone as my fart catcher.

homophobe — I like what Morgan Freeman said: “It’s the wrong word. You’re not afraid of anything. You’re just an asshole.”

Jive — Seeing the word always makes me think of “Airplane!” the uproarious 1980 flick where Barbara Billingsley translates the jive of two-black passengers.

light beer -- "Keeping beer loving spouses svelte since 1971!"

multiplex — I fear these will go away next.

omnisexual — “Involving, relating to, or characterized by a desire to engage in sexual activity with everyone, or with all kinds of people; practising or tolerant of such activity. Also: sexual in all or many ways.” Sounds exhausting.


• punk band

recycle bin — In what is to me one of life’s great ironies, most recycling bins are non-recyclable.

• solar farm

spoiler — I thought this was much younger. Like 1992 when “The Crying Game” premiered.

stoner — I love spending days with stoners right until you wake up the next morning and find them snoring on your couch.

stun gun — I wonder if the first ads boasted these non-lethal weapons would eliminate street crime.


weather woman — Ought to be a superhero.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Thank you for writing thiis