100 Words Turning 100 This Year

DavidGrigg/iStock via Getty Images
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
Wachiraphorn/iStock via Getty Images

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
Zolotaosen iStock via Getty Images

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
ribeirorocha/iStock via Getty Images

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
George Marks iStock via Getty Images

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
maxsomma/iStock via Getty Images

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
benjaminec iStock via Getty Images

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
Olesyam/iStock via Getty Images

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
Kizel iStock via Getty Images

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
Thomas Marx iStock via Getty Images

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
riskms/iStock via Getty Images

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
Kesu01/iStock via Getty Images

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
gzaleckas iStock via Getty Images

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
Claudia Nass/iStock via Getty Images

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
oatawa/iStock via Getty Images

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
johnnya123 iStock via Getty Images

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
BrianLasenby iStock via Getty Images

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
chimpyk/iStock via Getty Images

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
MR1805 iStock via Getty Images

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
sergeysan1/iStock via Getty Images

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
Ирина Мещерякова iStock via Getty Images

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!

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Is It Illegal to Falsely Shout 'Fire' in a Crowded Theater?

Fortunately, nobody incited a stampede at New York's Metropolitan Opera House on this night in 1937.
Fortunately, nobody incited a stampede at New York's Metropolitan Opera House on this night in 1937.
National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

If you asked a few random people to name a situation that wouldn’t be protected under the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, there’s a pretty good chance at least one of them would mention the example of someone shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater (when there’s no fire). Over the last century, the scene has been used far and wide to illustrate that if your “free speech” harms people, you can still end up in the defendant’s chair. But, as is so often the case when it comes to interpreting the law, it’s really not that simple.

Panic Room

The aftermath of the Iroquois Theatre fire.Fire-Truck.Ru, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

When people first started discussing human fire alarms at packed gatherings, it was less about constitutional debate and more about societal menace. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there were dozens of tragedies [PDF]—mainly in the U.S., but also abroad—where false shouts of “Fire!” provoked panic that resulted in multiple innocent, and avoidable, deaths. In 1913, for example, residents of Calumet, Michigan, held a Christmas party for the children of copper miners on strike. Hundreds of people gathered on the second floor of Italian Hall, and when an unidentified perpetrator (possibly motivated by anti-union sentiments) yelled “Fire!” they all rushed to the stairs. The stampede claimed 73 victims, most of whom were children.

The fear of fire wasn’t unfounded. Since not all buildings had sprinkler systems, neon exit signs, and capacity limits, plenty of fatal blazes occurred. More than 600 people died in Chicago’s Iroquois Theater fire in 1903, event though (ironically) that building was actually thought to be fireproof.

In short, shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater was an idea firmly entrenched in the public consciousness by the time judges co-opted the phrase for legal arguments on First Amendment rights.

Discussing Fire in a Crowded Courtroom

We mustache Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. a question about First Amendment rights.National Photo Company, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Wikimedia Commons // No Known Restrictions on Publication

The axiom became popular in legal spheres after Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. mentioned it during Schenck v. United States in 1919, but he wasn’t the first person to use it in court. As Carlton F.W. Lawson pointed out in a 2015 article in the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, U.S. attorney Edwin Wertz had uttered a lengthier version of it the previous year while prosecuting activist Eugene Debs. In fact, since Holmes ruled on Debs’s appeal the very week after the Schenck case, he may have even gotten the idea from Wertz.

Each case involved a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, which essentially made it punishable to do anything that interfered with U.S. military operations—including speaking out against the draft. Debs, a pacifist who opposed World War I, was under fire for a speech he had given in Ohio; and Charles T. Schenck, the U.S. Socialist Party’s general secretary, landed in front of the Supreme Court for passing out pamphlets that encouraged men to refuse the draft.

Both defendants were convicted, and Holmes justified his ruling on the Schenck case with the explanation that “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theater and causing a panic.” But while his analogy struck an emotional chord, it really had nothing to do with constitutional law.

“The ‘crowded theater’ statement in Schenck never amounted to any kind of binding standard or doctrine,” Nashwa Gewaily, a media and First Amendment lawyer, tells Mental Floss. “It was basically a bit of emotionally charged extra flair from Justice Holmes, outside the official legal determination of that case; a powerful image that endured outside its context ... It was not a high point in American jurisprudence.”

“Revengeance” Is Fine

What Holmes said after it, however, did become a standard for future free speech arguments. “The question in every case,” he said, “is whether the words are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

For the next 50 years, clear and present danger was the accepted—and slightly vague—metric for discerning if spoken or printed material was protected speech. Then, in 1969, the Supreme Court replaced it with something clearer. The case, Brandenburg v. Ohio, concerned a Ku Klux Klan leader named Clarence Brandenburg who had broken Ohio’s law against advocating “crime, sabotage, or unlawful methods of terrorism” for political purposes. (In his offending speech, he had mentioned the possibility of “revengeance” [sic] if the federal government didn’t stop “[suppressing] the white, Caucasian race.”)

Brandenburg appealed his guilty verdict all the way up to the Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling on the grounds that his threats were too ambiguous to “[incite] or [produce] imminent lawless action.” In order for something to qualify as imminent lawless action, it must: expressly advocate violence, advocate immediate violence, and relate to violence likely to occur.

As Gewaily explains, judges interpret this standard “far more narrowly than many would presume.” While individual institutions may condemn hate speech, for example, it’s technically protected under the law unless there’s “immediate violence” involved.

When Free Speech Is the Least of Your Worries

So, does falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater fall outside the conditions of imminent lawless action, and therefore fall under First Amendment protection? The short answer is that it depends on the circumstances. But here’s the long answer: If you get arrested for doing that, the charges brought against you might make the question of free speech totally irrelevant.

“The falsely shouted warning, while technically speech, could potentially violate a state's criminal laws against disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct, whether or not it provokes a stampede, for instance,” Gewaily says. And if there is a stampede in which somebody dies, you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. In other words, there’s no law that explicitly prohibits you from crying “Fire” in a theater. It’s the other laws you’d have to worry about.

Shouting “Bomb!” or “Gun!” in public would put you in a similar situation. In May 2018, for example, officials had to evacuate part of Daytona Beach International Airport after a man ran naked through the building screaming about a bomb in the women’s bathroom. There was no bomb, but he was charged with “false report of a bomb,” “criminal mischief,” and “exposure of sexual organs,” among other things. In that case, no self-respecting lawyer would advise him to claim his actions were protected by the First Amendment.

That said, there’s good news for anyone whose panicked cry is an honest mistake. “Someone who shouts a warning in genuine error, with an intent to galvanize movement to safety, would not be properly punished for that speech,” Gewaily says.

And if Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. has taught us anything, it’s that not every word a Supreme Court Justice says automatically counts as constitutional doctrine.

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