25 Words Turning 25 in 2017
By Arika Okrent
If you were born in 1992, not only are you as old as the Mall of America, the nicotine patch, and Super Mario Kart, you got to grow up with these words, all dated by first citation to 1992 in the Oxford English Dictionary.
It was a time when people started going on vacation before the vacation even started by clipping off a whole syllable and saying they were going on vacay.
This blend of trust fund and Rastafarian got a first mention in the Washington Times, where it was defined as a “guy who has long hair and a trust fund, drives a Saab or Jeep, listens to reggae, and doesn't let a whole lot bother him.”
3. PHOTOSHOP (VERB)
The image editing program Photoshop was released in 1990. By 1992, the name had become a verb, to Photoshop.
This blend of square and oval was formed to name the hot manicure style of 1992, a squared-off oval nail shape.
First there was sleazy, which has been around since 1644. In 1976, we got skeevy, and after we added skeeze in 1989, it was inevitable that we’d come around to skeezy eventually.
According to the OED, a sadster is “a pathetic or contemptible person.” According to the Urban Dictionary it’s “an emo dude who is always downbeat, yet more earnest and cooler than you. Basically a hipster sad-sack.”
This term for “the fact of having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals” first appeared in a 1992 proposal for a new Usenet group on the subject.
8. ON MESSAGE
Politicians and organizations have always come up with plans to get their positions across to the public, but it wasn’t until 25 years ago that they referred directly to those plans with comments about staying on message.
Metaverse, from meta-universe, became a term for virtual worlds after it was introduced by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.
The word meh was not invented in 1992. It’s a Yiddishism that goes back a long way. But it first shows up in attested written form in a 1992 Usenet post about the TV show Melrose Place with “Meh … far too Ken-doll for me.”
Just 25 years ago, we needed a special term for a habitual internet user. This blend of internet and astronaut was the answer. Now we don’t need a special word for this, because it’s all of us.
This blend of grrr and girl was first applied to the "riot girl" feminist punk movement. By 1992, it was a general term for “a young woman perceived as strong or aggressive, esp. in her attitude to men or in her expression of feminine independence and sexuality.”
The ethical problem of renegade hobbyists playing around with genes was something worrying enough to warrant the creation of the term biohacking in 1992.
The new possibilities of genetic manipulation also gave rise to the idea of “Frankenstein food”—food that had been irradiated or genetically modified. In 1992, the Franken- detached and became its own prefix in words like Frankenfood and Frankenfruit.
Another prefix achieved independence from alternative in 1992. First applied to music styles like alternapop, alterna-rock, and alterna-metal, it also became a way to describe alternadads and alternateens who were into alternathings.
The '90s supermodel years brought the whole fashion industry into the popular imagination, and this term, so much more worldly and evocative than “fashion industry employee,” gained its high-heeled foothold in the vocabulary.
The '60s gave us the idea of the jet-setting glitterati, and the '90s gave us the digerati, from digital + literati, for the computing and information technology class.
The first new word coinages with cyber- (from the 1948 term cybernetic) started in the 1960s, but cyberwar gets its first print citation with a 1992 Chicago Sun-Times article header: “Cyberwar debate: a new generation of ‘brilliant weapons’ has sparked a debate between scientists and the military about who should wage war, man or machine.”
The original citation for bootylicious is from a 1992 line rapped by the then-called Snoop Doggy Dogg (“Them rhymes you were kickin were quite bootylicious”) where it had a negative meaning—weak. Later it came to be a positive word for shapely and attractive.
Badass had been around since 1955, but in 1992, it got extended into the abstract noun for the whole general quality of being a badass.
Billy Ray Cyrus had a hit with his 1992 song “Achy Breaky Heart,” and achy breaky went on to a life of meaning generally sad in a country, twangy, way.
This blend of eat and entertainment was formed to put a simple label on a new '90s trend of theme restaurants that included entertainment, memorabilia, and gift shops.
Another blend for a type of bar/nightclub that also serves food, from restaurant + bar plus a hip, European feel.
A DJ might spin records, but in 1992, the manipulation of the turntables for effect with scratching, mixing, etc. was elevated to its own type of art from with the word turntablist.
The Uniform Resource Locator, a format for specifying a web address, wasn't yet a standard in 1992, but it was mentioned, and called a URL, in a 1992 electronic mailing list post of minutes from an Internet Engineering Task Force meeting.