A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post ran an article titled “Which Word Was Invented the Year You Were Born?” that used the OED’s word generator to enlighten the masses. Naturally, I was curious about my birthday word, so I clicked on the link only to discover that Huff Post’s list stopped at 1992. As a 1993 baby, I felt utterly rejected, like the sliver of french fry wedged in the corner of the McDonald’s bag that no one wants to put in the effort to retrieve. (I later discovered that the OED generator actually went up to 2004, but at the time, the alienation was crippling.) To remedy my sense of exclusion, I decided to extend the list to 2013 so that babies everywhere may learn what words were invented on their birthday. (For the record, the dates below correlate to the each word’s first recorded use, not when they entered the dictionary or when they grew so popular, your grandma understood what they meant. Also, these are just the words that I found the most interesting, not the only ones that came out during these years.)
1993 – Fashionista
In April 2013, writer Stephen Fried apologized for using the word “fashionista” for the first time in his book Thing of Beauty. If I had known that adding “ista” to the end of a word could earn it a spot in the dictionary, I would’ve coined “kittenista” ages ago.
1994 – Metrosexual
Journalist Mark Simpson coined the word metrosexual, meaning “a metropolitan heterosexual” or a man who cares about his looks, in one of his 1994 articles, giving the world a more succinct way to describe preppy teenage boys.
1995 – Bridezilla
In her wedding article “Tacky Trips Down the Aisle,” Diane White first used the word bridezilla to describe women who “lose sight of the solemnity of the wedding,” which is the nicest definition I’ve seen for this word.
1996 – Phishing
Phishing refers to the process in which a thief obtains financial information about a person by impersonating a bank or other trusted source. Coined by computer expert Jason Shannon in 1995, the term was intentionally made to sound like “fishing” because “phishers” use digital “bait” to lure in their victims.
1997 – Muggle
Considering Rowling’s books have infiltrated popular culture (and our hearts!) since their inception in 1997, it seemed only fair to include this word on the list.
1998 – Cybersquat
1998 was kind of a weird year, word-wise. The most noteworthy term I could find (aside from the slew of Monica Lewinsky neologisms) was “cybersquat,” meaning “the practice of registering an Internet domain name that is likely to be wanted by another person, business, or organization in the hope that it can be sold to them for a profit” (FreeDictionary.com).
1999 – Blog
Though the word “weblog” appeared a year prior, blog did not come into use on its own until technology expert Peter Merholz used it on his own blog, PeterMe.com.
2000 – Fauxhawk
Yeah, yeah, fauxhawks have been around since people learned that shampoo was particularly good for sculpting hair in the shower, but the term itself was first used in an article in Elle Magazine around the year 2000.
2001 – iPod
First released in October, 2001, Apple’s iPod revolutionized the music player industry by providing an alternative to portable CD players and walkmans.
2002 – Parkour
A London newspaper first reported on “Le Parkour” in 2002 as the practice began to spread from France to other countries. Which is to say, we can blame the French for the hoards of teenagers trying to do backflips off of your garage. (Then again, America invented planking, so I can’t really say much.)
2003 – Flash Mob
Though the idea of spontaneous, synchronized dancing has been around since the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the word to describe it didn’t emerge until 2003 in an issue of The Minneapolis Star Tribune (OED).
2005 – Sexting
Yvonne Roberts probably thought she was being clever when she coined the word “sexting” in a 2005 Sunday Telegraph article, but what she was really doing was making my skin crawl, because this word really weirds me out.
2006 – Crowdsourcing
Have you heard of Wikipedia? That’s crowdsourcing. The word itself was first used in an article in Wired in 2006 (OED).
2007 – Obamacare
I should note at this point that the words will be getting a bit more obscure from here on out, as we don’t know which words will become more relevant in the coming years.
2008 – Supercut
Blogger Andy Baio first used this word in 2008 to describe the fannish video montages that populate the Internet.
2009 – Omnishambles
2010 – Refudiate
Okay, you caught me. This word isn’t real, but every time I would Google “words invented in 2010,” this Sarah Palin concoction, meaning “to reject,” would show up. It was also named the “word of the year” by Oxford English Dictionaries, proving that Internet gaffes are forever.
2011 – Tebowing, Humblebrag
I’m calling a tie because both of these pop culture words are too good to pass up. Coined by writer Harris Wittels on Twitter, humblebrag refers to a self-deprecating brag that secretly aims to “show off.” And this is Tebowing:
2012 – Frankenstorm
Used to describe Hurricane Sandy, Frankenstorm was created by forecaster Jim Cisco. Some of us on the East Coast missed the significance of such a moniker.
2013 – Cronut
While words like “doughssant” have been around for a while, the term “cronut” did not emerge until just this year. Most days, I wish it hadn’t, but maybe that’s just me.
What words will 2014 bring? Only time will tell.
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