If you were born in 1991, not only do you have something in common with the World Wide Web, the Honeycrisp apple, and the Jerry Springer show, you got to grow up with these words that have their first Oxford English Dictionary citations in 1991.
This cute word for a best friend started as a Britishism. The first citation from the OED, an Observer article, qualifies besties with the explanation “reliable pals from school.”
The verb to crowd-surf first shows up in print in Canada, in a 1991 Globe & Mail article.
3. COUCH SURFER
People were not just surfing crowds in 1991, but also couches, though then it referred to “a person who (habitually) engages in sedentary activities, esp. television watching; a ‘couch potato.’” The first citation for the meaning of crashing at friends’ places is from 1993.
This word for a person who eats fish but not meat was formed on analogy with vegetarian.
5. RIOT GIRL
This name for “a member or follower of any of several loosely affiliated, mainly American, feminist rock or punk groups of the early 1990s” was taken from the title of a zine (1965) that started in 1991. The OED lists additional forms riot grrl and riot grrrl.
This word for “constructed language” arose in Usenet newsgroups where people discussed the then-newly burgeoning hobby of making up languages.
The new thing in '90s workplaces was having everyone share or rotate among desks instead of having the desks assigned to individuals. Technology and work-from-home arrangements have made the practice more common.
8. BITCH SLAP (VERB)
Though the noun bitch slap, slang for “a stinging slap or blow … delivered to humiliate a person regarded as inferior” showed up in the 1987 liner notes for the Guns N’ Roses album Appetite for Destruction, it was first recorded as a verb in 1991.
The nickname for “men’s sung-fitting white cotton underpants” was included in a 1991 campus slang guide.
10. GODWIN’S LAW
In a 1991 Usenet newsgroup discussion, Mike Godwin laid out his formulation of what came to be known as Godwin’s Law: “as a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” It now applies for all kinds of online debate.
11. ETHNIC CLEANSING
As an English term for “the purging, by mass expulsion or killing, or one ethnic or religious group by another,” it was first applied during the wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia. It was modeled on an existing Serbo-Croatian term.
A play on the idea of “pharmaceutical farming” it refers to “the process of genetically modifying plants and animals so that they produce substances which may be used as pharmaceuticals.”
Remember the cyber days? This word for an internet broadcast had its time in the '90s, but eventually faded away.
Other cyber- compounds came of age in the '90s, including this one, which hasn’t faded away quite so fast.
15. SKEEVED OUT
The verb to skeeve or skeeve out had been around since the late '80s, but in 1991, it also became an adjective meaning "disgusted, repelled, discomforted."
This shortening of girlfriend gets its first use in early '90s Usenet groups.
17. NU SKOOL
This version of new school, formed as a counterpoint to old school, designates “any of several styles of popular music which incorporate contemporary elements into an established genre (esp. hip-hop or house music).”
Both heteronormative and heternormativity showed up in 1991 to sum up “a world view which regards gender roles as fixed to biological sex and heterosexuality as the normal and preferred sexual orientation.”
It was 1991 when role-playing games became a topic of enough discussion to make live-action role-player just too cumbersome and LARPer took its place.
20. NEW LAD
In 1991, this British term emerged for “a (type of) young man who embraces sexist attitudes and the traditional male role as a reaction against the perceived effeminacy of the ‘new man’; esp, one who does so (or who claims to do so ) knowingly and with a sense of ironic detachment.”
21. TIME SUCK
The same year we invented the World Wide Web, we also got this term for something that eats up a lot of time.
The Taser was invented in 1972, but we got the verb to tase much later.
The name for this type of intense snowboard race was formed on analogy with motorcross.
24. GOD PARTICLE
The God Particle, the book that introduced the Higgs boson with this nickname, wasn’t published until 1993, but in 1991 a New York Times book review mentioned the “forthcoming history of particle physics” by title.
It’s been 25 years since the Saturday Night Live sketch "Wayne’s World" introduced us to babelicious. Party time! Excellent!