16 Words You Might Be Surprised Are 100 Years Old
The earliest citations in the Oxford English Dictionary for these 16 words are from 1916—100 years ago. Some of them might surprise you.
1. ECONOMY SIZE
The advertising industry invented economy size to promote “a size (usually the largest in a series) sold as representing the best value for money for the customer.” The first citation is in an ad for a rat poison called “Rough on Rats,” which you could get in economy size for 25 cents.
2. ADULTS ONLY
The use of this term, with the meaning “unsuitable for or prohibited to children because of violent or sexually explicit content,” is first recorded in a Chicago Defender article stating that “any time an ‘adults only’ play is being run it is safe to say that that house is under the close scrutiny of the inspectors.”
This slang term for “nothing at all; (in negative constructions) anything at all; the least thing” is first recorded in the proceedings of the trial of a British solider with the quote, “I give f*** all for my life & I give f*** all for yours & I'll get you f***ing well shot.’”
The noun goof, for “A silly, stupid, or ‘daft’ person,” shows up in print in 1916—as does goofus, which probably inspired the later doofus (1967).
The first mention of headlinese, “the condensed, elliptical, or sensationalist style of language characteristic of (esp. newspaper) headlines,” is a positive one, arguing that “the general effect of headlinese on the language is good. Headlinese works against circumlocution and scroll-work expression.”
The first use of high-maintenance as an adjective comes from a 1916 engineering journal on the topic of roads. It wasn’t applied to people until 1982.
Where there’s high-maintenance, there’s naturally also low-maintenance. Another 1916 article mentions “the great appreciation of low-cost and low-maintenance cars.”
This term was first used in the field of psychiatry, and the first citation for it refers to “the development of a homo-erotic obsessional neurosis.”
Though the car was invented before the turn of the century, in 1916, mass production of motor vehicles had just made it possible for many people to own them. This suddenly made being carless a condition worth talking about.
10. JOB HUNTING
A paper in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science suggested “how immeasurably superior it would be if all, or as much as possible of the work of job-hunting, could be centralized in one free public employment bureau.”
It wasn’t until the late 1920s that physicists began using photon to mean a unit of light—or more generally, electromagnetic radiation—but the word had been coined in the field of optics in 1916 for a “unit of retinal illumination,” having to do with the effect of light on the eye.
The ponytail wasn’t yet a popular women’s hairstyle in 1916. The first use of pony tail for a style where “the hair is gathered and fastened at the back of the head so that it hangs down like a pony's tail” was used in the description of a man in a potboiler adventure novel about the far east.
This term for “the final phrase or sentence of a joke or story, providing the humor or some other crucial element” originates not in the era of the sitcom or standup comedy, but of vaudeville.
In 1916, the National Association of Realtors (then the National Association of Real Estate Boards) decided there should be a designated professional title for its members. They adopted Realtor, which to this day is a trademark term owned by the association.
By 1916, there were enough movies being produced that a person could go to the cinema regularly enough to be called a moviegoer.
The 1950s were the height of the brighter-than-life Technicolor years, but the process for coloring films was invented in in 1916, and the term is still trademarked.