Feature: Language

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As times change, so does language

By Wendell Anderson

It seems like it must have been in the spring of 1965 when all mothers disappeared and became 'moms.'

Before that, at least in St. Paul, Minn. - where I grew up in the 1950s and '60s - female parents were called 'Mother,' 'Ma' or sometimes 'Mama.' I don't recall hearing 'mom' very often.

Now, it seems that 'mom' has replaced all other words.

Such changes are common. Words and phrases are constantly emerging, vanishing and changing in English. It's entertaining to pause and take a quick look at some ways our language is changing.

Here to stay

Only time will tell which new words will stick around. The following have, even though they were coined not so long ago:

Teenager (1930)
Malnourishment (1932)
Muzak (1936)
Majorette (1941)
Automation (1948)
Discotheque (1951)
Aerospace (1957)
Mini (1961)
Defoliate (1967)
Biofeedback (1970)
Streaker (1973)

Taking an exit

As new words enter the language, old ones exit. Gone are these once proud words:

Burdalane: the last child surviving in a family.

Bendsome: pliable, flexible.

Cumberground: something worthless and in the way.

Dwine: to slowly pine (or waste) away (from which the word dwindle comes).

Elden: to grow old.

Evenhood: equality.

Moffle: to do something badly with no idea how it should be done.

Sloom: to sleep soundly.

Spuddle: to do something unimportant with much fuss.

Something new

Here are a few new dictionary entries:

  • Boomeritis: afflictions or injuries of Baby Boomers, caused by aging.
  • Drama queen: a person given to excessively emotional reactions.
  • Mouse potato: a person who spends a great deal of time using a computer.
  • Ringtone: the sound made by a cell phone to signal an incoming call.
  • Sharrow: an arrowlike design painted on a roadway to mark a bicycle route.
  • Supersize: to increase considerably the size, amount or extent of something.
  • Surge: a large, but brief, increase in a military's troop strength.
  • Unibrow: a single eyebrow resulting from the growing together of eyebrows.

Before & After

Yesterday's words (left) have been replaced by those used today (right).

bawl cry
blackboard chalkboard, whiteboard
cake of soap bar of soap
grip suitcase
grippe flu
icebox fridge
rec (or rumpus) room family room
roughage fiber