100 Words Turning 100 This Year

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DavidGrigg/iStock via Getty Images

The word cake is about 800 years old, and you're gonna want to make some for these scrappy newcomers turning 100. Let's celebrate the centennial of all of them. And don't forget the candles (which are at least 1100 years old).

1. World War II

Black and white retro image of Lancaster bombers from Battle of Britain in World War Two
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Did you know that the term World War 2 is essentially turning 100 this year? That's right—in February 1919, just a few months after World War 1 ended, a story appeared in the UK's Manchester Guardian called “World War No. 2.” The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as a "reference to an imagined future war arising out of the social upheaval consequent upon the First World War.” The actual second world war wouldn’t start until 1939.

2. Balletomane

It refers to a ballet devotee. If you love ballet, this is you.

3. Snooty

Don't look down your nose at this one.

4. Fanboy

American football fans cheer on their team
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The term originated to describe young, male baseball enthusiasts, but now it can be applied to just about everything from Batman comics to cricket.

5. Peter-Pannery

This is a rather odd/fantastic way to accuse someone of behaving childishly, and you may need it for the fanboy in your life.

6. Dunk

A woman dunks a cookie into a glass of milk
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The original meaning of dunker had nothing to do with someone who could dunk a basketball—it was someone who dunked cookies. Dunking a basketball wouldn’t come along until a few decades later.

7. DUNKER

Fun fact: The optimal time to dunk an Oreo in milk is three seconds!

8. BIMBO

If you know a snooty fanboy and a dunker, you might also know a bimbo, though sources disagree whether that's from 1919 or 1918. Either way, back then the term would have been used to describe a man.

9. UNDERGRADUATE

Female college students walking to a class
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But if you want an unusual 1919 term for a woman, how about undergraduette, which is the female version of an undergraduate.

10. SPORTS CAR

Henry Ford created the moving assembly line to build automobiles in 1913, and their burgeoning popularity also brought forth a lot of new terms.

11. EXITS

A green highway exit sign with white lettering
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Meaning the kind you take off the road.

12. MOTOR SCOOTER

Before the motors, "scooters" were just people who moved fast.

13. PICKUP TRUCK

Dog in the back of a black pickup truck
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Presumably to haul undergraduates around in.

14. HYDROFOIL

If you’re more into water sports, hydrofoil—the apparatus that lifts watercraft hulls up out of the water to increase speed—also comes from 1919.

15. SUPERSONIC

Speaking of increasing speed, although it wouldn't be applied to transport for a few more decades, supersonic, meaning higher than humans can hear, is also turning 100.

16. COLLAGE

Child tears a red paper into small pieces. Child holds red paper pieces in his hands. Kindergarten art lesson. Set of color paper, pencils, glue stick on wooden background
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It comes from a French word that means “gluing.”

17. PISSOIR

Also from French, and from 1919, pissoir is a public urinal.

18. VINO

The English language also borrowed vino from the Italians that year.

19. PENNE

Plate of penne pasta and wine
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And the penne to go with it.

20. COLD TURKEY

Keeping on the food theme, I think I’m going to go cold turkey—a phrase whose modern meaning is 100-years-young and still has mysterious origins. One theory is that it comes from the phrase talking turkey meaning “to be frank.”

21. SILICA GEL

Moving on to something you probably shouldn’t eat: silica gel.

Here’s a little secret, though: Despite being marked “DO NOT EAT,” chowing down on the packets, if you decided to do it, probably wouldn’t be that bad for you—the warnings are mostly there because silica gel is a choking hazard for children. Plus eating it in large quantities isn’t advisable.

22. POLYPHILOPROGENITIVE

A newborn baby grabs a parent's finger
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It’s believed T.S. Eliot coined the term polyphiloprogenitive in 1919, which describes one who is prolific in making babies.

23. POST-PRIMARY EDUCATION

Those babies will probably need a lot of post-primary education, which is turning 100 just as primary education is turning 201.

24. BEHAVIORAL

Similarly, we’ve had behavior since the 15th century , but behavioral is a 1919 word!

25. ISOLATIONISM

Man sits by himself watching the sunset
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And isolationism is from 1919 versus isolation from 1833 .

26. BLUE NOTE

Although it was circulating in the jazz world earlier, Blue note entered the popular lexicon in 1919. It refers to a type of flattened musical note that often pops up in blues and jazz.

27. JAZZMAN

A saxophone player in front of a festival crowd seated on a lawn
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And on that (ahem) note ... jazzman, meaning jazz musician, also turns 100 this year.

28. CHARTIST

Speaking of professionals, chartist as a term for market analysts comes from 1919.

29. AIR MARSHAL

Window and wall of an airplane
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As does the job of air marshal, although it meant an officer in the Royal Air Force when it was coined.

30. air commodore

There's also this new-to-1919 rank, which is the equivalent of a Brigadier (one star) General.

31. AIRFIELD

Those words get all the sky-related glory, though. With the post-WWI rise of airplanes, we also got airfield.

32. Air traffic control

If you're gonna have an airfield, you're gonna need this.

33. Air frEIght

A young man and young woman build an airplane in a WWII-era factory
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And if you've got airplanes, you may as well have them haul some cargo.

34. SUPERPIMP

As you might guess, you'd use this word to describe a highly successful pimp in 1919.

35. SUPERAGENT

And if we're just adding super to a title, perhaps the most epic job title ever is superagent, which was a title given to the Golden Ghost, “super-agent of Anarchism” who is surprisingly not a comic book character.

36. SVENGALI

Illustration of a Svengali
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Someone who may have made a good superagent, Svengali is also on our list. Svengali was an evil hypnotist character in the 19th century novel Trilby, and by 1919, it had become a generic term.

37. XANADU

Xanadu became a word meaning “idyllic place” in 1919, but it first entered public consciousness thanks to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1816.

38. TELEFILM

Some people may think that the movie Xanadu is more telefilm quality, which is a good burn but also a word you wouldn’t have used before 1919.

39. BELL CURVE

A bell curve on graph paper with an equation below
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Also that year, people finally had the good sense to put bell and curve together to get the above.

40. IMMUNE SYSTEM

Now let’s cover some words that are important in the medical field. We got this phrase almost 60 years after Louis Pasteur laid the groundwork for modern germ theory. Thankfully, we've got something to fight them.

41. BLOOD TYPING

There's also blood typing, though blood types have possibly been around since earlier than 20 million years ago. Also according to one survey, nearly 50 percent of people don’t know their own blood type.

42. DIAPER RASH

Baby in a diaper against a blue-green background
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After having been an advertising term for a few years, diaper rash entered the lexicon, and became another issue we needed a word for, in 1919.

43. SWINE INFLUENZA

Staying with medicine: swine influenza dates from 1919, possibly as a result of the Spanish flu that was ravaging the globe at the time.

44. SPLIT PERSONALITY

A statue from the waist up of Roman god Janus
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Split personality is 100 years old, though it was first used to refer to patients with schizophrenia. The term used now to describe someone with multiple personalities is dissociative identity disorder.

45. MUSIC THERAPY

The technique has been used since the days of Aristotle, but it officially became a field during the 20th century, when music was used as therapy for hospitalized veterans of both World Wars.

46. MUSICALIZED

Illustration of an orchestra on stage
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Perhaps thanks to this increased focus on music, things began to be musicalized, which is when a novel or play is set to music.

47. COPACETIC

Copacetic was first found in print in 1919, and its etymology is unknown. There are similar phrases in a few languages, but no proof for any one being the originator of the word. We do know that vaudeville performer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson claimed to have invented it, and that it probably popped up around the 1880s in African-American slang in the south.

48. FEEDBACK

We got feedback in 1919, but only to reference a mechanical process. An example of a mechanism using feedback that existed around that time is an audio amplifier. It wasn’t until around the 1950s that it started to refer to a reaction someone gives.

49. OFFLINE

Train tracks in front of a forest at sunset
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The OED records other modern-seeming words that emerged in 1919—though with odd meanings. For example, offline, which referred to something that was away from a railroad line.

50. BROADBAND

There's also broadband, which referred to a broad band of frequencies.

51. MOONWALKING

A sleepwalker on a roof
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And, 50 years before Apollo 11, moonwalking meant a type of sleepwalking.

52. RUN-OF-THE-MILL

Some fun hyphenated adjectives emerged in 1919. Run-of-the-mill, originally meant the substance that came out of a mill before going through quality control, but it gained its modern meaning around 1919.

53. MIXED BAG

The modern meaning of mixed bag—“a diverse or heterogeneous assortment of people or things,” according to the OED—turns 100 this year. Before that, it was a hunting term for an assortment of game.

54. Preslice

Sliced bread
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Preslice was coined before the invention of sliced bread. It wasn’t until 1928 that Otto Rohwedder’s invention started preslicing bread.

55. Presoak

And if you’re going to preslice something, maybe you should also presoak it.

56. ANTIOXIDANT

Smoothie bowl with fresh berries, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables
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Antioxidant is 100, although oxidant, which came from a French word, has been around since the mid-19th century.

57. Putsch

Then we have putsch, which we got from the Swiss German language. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s a “secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government.”

58. BINOCS

There's no better way to watch out for attempted putsches than with binocs, a slang term for binoculars from 1919.

59. ELECTRON TUBE

Glowing electron tubes
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On the technological front, electron tube is 100. Versions of these devices—which basically control electron flow in electronics like radios and computers— had been around since the 17th century, but it wasn’t until 1904 that John Ambrose Fleming invented a working one.

60. CRITICAL MASS

We also got critical mass in 1919, which nowadays is used to describe something very science-y: how much fissionable stuff you need to keep a chain reaction going. But Merriam-Webster simply defines it as “a size, number, or amount large enough to produce a particular result.”

61. MELTDOWN

Nuclear power plant behind a field
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If you do reach critical mass, watch out for a meltdown, which originally was just used for anything that melted down, before referring to nuclear materials in the 1950s.

62. RADIOBIOLOGY

And on that radiation note, we got radiobiology in 1919—the type of biology that focuses on radiation and radioactive materials.

63. SPECIAL RELATIVITY

An artistic rendering of a black hole warping the stars around it
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A few more science related terms also come from 1919, like special relativity, even though the theory was formulated 14 years earlier.

64. DIODE

They used to be called rectifiers, but William Henry Eccles crafted the term diode to delineate from tetrodes when they were invented.

65. COVALENCE

You can bond with your friends over this 100-year-old word during your science trivia night.

66. DIOXIN

The rise of 20th century industrialization also gave us a need to name these harmful environmental toxins.

67. WHITE ROOM

Two scientists in clean room suits look through microscopes
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A lot of science at the turn of the century was probably done in a white room, which is a 1919 term for what we now call a clean room.

68. MINIMETER

And things in the white room might have been measured with a minimeter, an instrument that could get accurate readings down to one millionth of an inch.

69. ELECTRODESSICATION

And one more science term: electrodessication, which the OED defines as "destruction of abnormal tissue or sealing of blood vessels using a monopolar high frequency electrical current.

70. ENCODE

Woman entering code onto a laptop computer
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Encode has a few meanings nowadays, but in 1919, it meant “convert ... from one system of communication into another.”

71. CODE NAME

Code name is a word that was used before 1919 to describe a moniker given to a ship or company so you wouldn’t have to write out the full name in Morse Code. But a 1919 newspaper says infantry commanders would use codenames to avoid giving their position away to the enemy, which appears to be when it started getting its modern usage. They're also pretty handy for superagents.

72. BULL SESSION

A longhorn bull standing in a field beneath a cloudy sky
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Bull session, meaning “an informal discursive group discussion,” is officially 100, which should give you something to chat about at your next bull session.

73. REMILITARIZE

Just like it sounds, this word means to resupply a formerly demilitarized nation or organization.

74. POKEY

Pokey officially became slang for jail in 1919.

75. RITZY

A pair of stylish couples sit at a table and chatx
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On the other end of the spectrum, ritzy also became slang for stylish that year.

76. POSH UP

And hopefully this list can posh up your vocabulary a bit.

77. PAXMAS

And if you want to make your last minute Christmas gift card sound ritzy, maybe call it a paxmas, which is a word coined in 1919 meaning “a telegraphed money order written and sent at any time but delivered on Christmas morning.”

78. BEAVERTAIL

Beavertail cactus with pink blooms in front of a field of yellow flowers
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Beavertail got its name in 1919. It ’ s a type of cactus found in the southwestern US and northern Mexico. So ... not animal-related.

79. BATS

Another animal-but-not-animal phrase, the word bats joins our list, though only to mean batty. The cute animal had already gotten its name by 1600.

80. HORSE AROUND

A laughing horse
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Another animal term we humans have made about ourselves: horse around. We don’t know exactly who came up with the phrase, but experts say it’s probably a spinoff from horseplay, a word from 1589.

81. DEFANG

While we're at it, defang started being used in a figurative way.

82. DELOUSE

And delouse started being used in a literal way.

83. DEMOBBED

Artist rendering of Scottish WWI troops fighting in a trench
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Delouse became a word thanks to WWI solders going through a delousing process after they demobbed, short for demobilized.

84. PRERETURN

And they demobbed and deloused while completing prereturn, or what was required before returning to daily life.

85. SKIVVIES

This one also may have a military connection: One story goes that the slang term for underwear came from the U.S. Navy.

86. OVERBREATHING

Stressed out man breathing into a paper bag
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We got overbreathing in 1919, but you probably just refer to it as hyperventilating.

87. NON EXPLOITIVE

And non exploitive, just 61 years younger than its friend exploitive.

88. INTERROGEE

To be fair to interrogees, there’s currently debate in the legal and grammar worlds about whether they should be called interrogees or interrogatees.

89. OVERREACT

A man looking shocked with his hands against his face and mouth wide open
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But that's nothing to be too alarmed about.

90. BELTLINE

Beltline is 100. It means the “line of an automobile body along the side of the vehicle just below the windows.”

91. SElf-validation

Self-validation comes from validate, which has been around since the mid-17th century. Go ahead and do it to yourself.

92. OUTGAS

But don't try this on yourself. Outgas might not mean what you initially thought. It’s just used to refer to taking gases out of an area, typically with heat.

93. Blimp

A blimp flying over snow-covered mountains
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While not technically coined in 1919, a lot of very familiar words were added to the dictionary that year, like blimp.

94. CONVERtible

Convertible falls under the same category as blimp.

95. HOOVERIZE

As does Hooverize, which meant to be economical with regard to food. It was named after then head of the US Food Administration Herbert Hoover, who suggested economizing on food for the war effort.

96. AIR TAXI

Yellow taxi hovering above the ground
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You may need one to make quick trips between your private islands.

97. AIRFOIL

Remember hydrofoil? This is basically the same thing but for air. You can thank an airfoil every time your air taxi takes off.

98. ANTI-ALLERGY

Another thing to cheer, especially in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.

99. Anti-stress

A black and tan Dachshund with cucumber slices on its eyes
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It turns out the people of 1919 were as focused at battling stress as we are.

100. Activated charcoal

Last but not least... activated charcoal, which came to public attention thanks to its use in World War I gas masks and is now found in every hipster cafe in America!

What’s the Difference Between Forests, Woods, and Jungles?

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Jui-Chi Chan/iStock via Getty Images

If you're an English speaker, there’s a good chance you often use the words woods, forest, and jungle correctly without even thinking about it. Even if a patch of trees takes up a significant portion of your backyard, you probably wouldn’t consider it a forest; and you wouldn’t talk about the beautiful fall foliage in New England’s jungles. Based on those examples, it seems like woods are smaller than forests, and jungles aren’t found in colder climates. This isn’t wrong—but there's more to it than that.

According to Merriam-Webster, a forest is “a dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract,” while woods are “a dense growth of trees usually greater in extent than a grove and smaller than a forest.” The reason we consider forests to be larger than woods dates back to the Norman rule of Great Britain in 1066, when a forest was a plot of land owned by the Crown that was large enough to accommodate game for royal hunting parties. Whether that land contained trees or not was essentially irrelevant.

These days, scientists and land managers definitely consider the presence of trees necessary for land to be classified as a forest. To set it apart from woods, or woodland, it usually has to meet certain density qualifications, which are different depending on whom you ask.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), a forest must cover about 1.24 acres of land, and its canopy cover—the amount of land covered by the treetops—must exceed 10 percent of the acreage [PDF]. “Other wooded land” must also span about 1.24 acres, but its canopy cover is between 5 and 10 percent. In a nutshell, the FAO thinks forests and woods are the same size, but forests are more dense than woods. Australia, on the other hand, employs plant ecologist Raymond Specht’s classification system for its vegetation, in which any tree-populated land with less than 30 percent canopy cover is a woodland, and anything more dense than that is a forest.

Unlike forests, jungles don’t have specific scientific classifications, because the word jungle isn’t really used by scientists. According to Sciencing, it’s a colloquial term that usually denotes what scientists refer to as tropical forests.

Tropical forests are located around the Equator and have the highest species diversity per area in the world. Since they’re so densely populated with flora and fauna, it makes sense that both Merriam-Webster and the Encyclopedia Britannica describe jungles as “tangled” and “impenetrable.” They’re bursting with millions of plants and animals that are different from what we see in temperate and boreal forests to the north.

Because most of us aren’t in the habit of clarifying which type of forest we’re talking about in casual conversation, it’s no surprise that we often refer to the temperate forests we see in our own climate simply as forests, which we differentiate from those rich, overgrown tropical territories to the south by calling them jungles.

To summarize, forests are historically and colloquially considered to be larger than woods, and scientifically considered to be more dense. Jungles are technically forests, too, since jungle is a casual word for what scientists call a tropical forest.

And, all differences aside, it’s relaxing to spend time in any of them—here are 11 scientific reasons why that’s true.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

5 Benefits of Sarcasm, According to Science

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AntonioGuillem/iStock via Getty Images

Writing of her future demise, author and humorist Dorothy Parker once observed that her epitaph might read, “Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”

Celebrated for her scathing wit and wordplay, the late Parker might agree that sarcasm held tangible benefits. Doled out with care, ironic remarks—usually defined as communication that humorously conveys your intent through language that appears to be the opposite of what you mean—can amuse friends, lighten the mood, or broadcast your wit. But there’s more to sarcasm than simply eliciting a laugh. It turns out that the perks of your caustic muttering might have some scientific support. Take a look at a few peer-reviewed consequences to your snappy comebacks.

1. Sarcasm and humor might make you appear more confident, particularly at work.

In a 2016 paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers evaluated adults on their responses to some candid remarks about fictional pet food and travel companies, among other subjects. Those with zingers were perceived as having more competence and confidence. “The successful use of humor—telling jokes that are funny and appropriate—can raise your status because it makes you appear more confident and more competent,” says co-author Thomas Bitterly, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business. “Confidence and competence are two of the key traits that determine whether we give someone status. The reason for this is because we want the individuals who have influence in a group to be those who are capable of leading it.”

Humor and sarcasm work to reinforce these traits, Bitterly tells Mental Floss, because humor itself is a risk. “Before we tell a joke, especially to people we do not know well, it’s difficult to know with certainty if our audience will find it funny and appropriate. If they find it unfunny and inappropriate, they will think that we lack competence and we will lose status. Given that humor is risky, telling a joke signals confidence,” he says.

2. Sarcasm can improve creativity.

In a 2015 paper [PDF] published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, researchers (including those at Harvard and Columbia business schools) made the case for sarcasm facilitating creative thinking. In a series of experiments, participants gave or received positive, neutral, or sarcastic responses with a partner. Those in the sarcastic groups performed better at creative tasks—like problem-solving on paper—after the fact.

"This is because both sarcasm construction and sarcasm interpretation are conducive to abstract thinking, a key cognitive precursor to creative thinking," lead author Li Huang, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, tells Mental Floss. Huang points to a common sarcastic comment aimed at someone wasting time in the workplace: "Don't work too hard." The intended meaning is likely to "work harder." Both the speaker and recipient benefit, Huang says, because both need to process the underlying message. The speaker must translate the admonishment to sarcasm, and the recipient has to consider what the speaker really meant. That abstraction fosters creative thinking because creativity is needed to discern the truth and not the literal meaning of the statement.

"In this way, to construct or interpret sarcasm is to traverse the psychological distance between the stated and the intended meaning through abstract thinking," Huang says.

There is one word of caution: Sarcasm tends to have this effect when it’s lobbed between two parties who know and trust one another. With strangers, it might simply come off as rude or confusing.

3. Sarcasm can make criticism seem almost pleasant.

Want to offer some constructive commentary without feeling like a jerk? In a 2016 paper published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, co-author Melanie Glenwright, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba, examined how adults and children interpreted sarcastic commentary. The generally agreeable reactions by adults to criticism indicates it can be wrapped in an amusing remark that reduces the chance for the listener to feel offended.

“The use of indirect language allows the speaker to criticize the addressee indirectly which is perceived as more polite than a direct, literal insult,” Glenwright tells Mental Floss. "Speakers may use sarcasm to deliver insults in professional or social settings where they want to criticize another person in a less-harsh manner.”

4. Sarcasm can make for better social bonding.

When we pass along a humorous observation and someone agrees with it, we’re strengthening our bond with that individual, according to Glenwright. “[Sarcasm] improves social bonding between the speaker and the addressee,” she says. “Sarcasm can also be used to convey humor and jocularity which can improve mood both in the speaker and addressee.”

5. Sarcasm might make you appear more intelligent.

Sarcasm and humor alike share a common trait: They require creative thinking that’s rapidly deployed to analyze a situation. Depending on the company, Bitterly says that a clever retort could potentially have people thinking more highly of you. “Saying something that is funny and appropriate is difficult,” he says. “It requires being able to recognize an opportunity for humor—'did someone just say something I know a funny response for'—[and] being able to quickly generate or recall a funny response and being able to predict how the audience is going to respond. On top of those things, delivery and timing also matter …. We tend to view people who manage to successfully pull off all of these things as being more intelligent, and we see that reflected in the way we refer to them.”

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