40 Words Turning 40 In 2016


If you were born in 1976, not only are you the same age as Apple, Hair Club for Men, Laverne & Shirley, and Rocky, you were the first to grow up with these words as part of your vocabulary. Here are 40 words that have their first Oxford English Dictionary citations in 1976.


While beer belly had been around since 1942, we first saw the beer gut in 1976.


We got a new cosmetic problem to worry about when the term spider veins was coined 40 years ago for tiny, broken, superficial blood vessels.


We also got to opportunity to feel self-conscious about having an underbite when it was created on analogy with overbite, but, as the OED notes, it is “not a term used in dentistry.” 


In 1976, conspiracy theorists added black helicopters to the list of unidentified flying objects hovering over the countryside with sinister intentions.


This blend of Bombay and Hollywood, used to refer to the Indian film industry, was first used in a 1976 Inspector Ghote mystery novel by H.R.F. Keating. 


While we already had baby boom to describe the increase in births after World War II, and were already referring to the members of this generation as baby boomers by 1970, in 1976, the generational label was shortened to just boomers.


The use of startup for “a business enterprise that is in the process of starting up” is first attested in a 1976 Forbes article mentioning the “unfashionable business of investing in startups in the electronic data processing field.”


Stories “written by a fan rather than a professional author … based on already existing characters” were called fan fic as long ago as 1976.


The first citation we have for Trekkie, “an admirer of the U.S. science fiction television programme Star Trek,” comes from a 1976 New Yorker caption reading, “of course, I didn't know George was a Trekkie when I married him.”


The earliest citation for chicken nugget is from a 1976 ad in a Jackson, Missouri phone book for Troy’s Fish House. “Catfish ‘All You Can Eat.’ Shrimp—Oysters—Steak. Chicken Nuggets—Burgers.” It wasn’t until the early '80s that the McDonald’s Chicken McNugget came on the scene.


In the '70s, movie audiences thrilled to horror scenarios of shipwreck (The Poseidon Adventure), plane crashes (the Airport movies), and fire (The Towering Inferno), among other catastrophes, which led to the coining of a specific term for this genre: disaster movie.


Hackers were calling themselves hackers before 1976, but the first print citation of hacker showed up that year and was defined by various publications around that period as a “compulsive programmer,” a “home-computer nut,” or “someone who spends much of his time writing computer programs.”


The verb download, meaning to copy data from one computer to another device, is first attested in an article from Science in 1976 which explains that “software at any level can be developed on a host minicomputer and ‘down-loaded’ without code conversion.”

14. PIN

PIN stands for Personal Identification Number and was just starting to be “used for the validation of electronic transactions” in places like bank drive-thrus in 1976.


The era of disco and electronics came together with the drum machine, “a programmable electronic device for reproducing the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments, from which rhythms can be created.”


An outbreak of a dangerous flu-like illness at a convention of the Pennsylvania State American Legion in 1976 led to the discovery of a specific lung-infecting bacteria (which had spread through the conference center's air conditioning system) and the naming of the illness caused by the bacteria Legionnaires’ disease


The first Ebola outbreak occurred in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, and the virus was identified and named after the river. 


The '70s saw the rise of a philosophy of childbirth where “technology is avoided and the delivery occurs at home or in a similar natural environment.” 

19. PMS

PMS was first used as an abbreviation for “the premenstrual syndrome,” in a 1976 Lancet article. 


The use of the zone for “a state of perfect concentration leading to optimum mental or physical performance” showed up in a San Francisco Chronicle article describing how “Arthur Ashe's experience in The Zone during his last Wimbledon championship bordered on the surreal.”


It wasn’t until weight machines became widespread that good old fashioned barbells and dumbbells needed their own category name, free weights.


This term for someone who has “a compulsive desire for extreme excitement” was first recorded with the comment “I’m an adrenaline junkie” in an interview in the Los Angeles Times.


A 1976 issue of Runner’s World reported that “fun running is about to take off nationwide,” and soon these just-for-fun races became a weekend staple for the casual runner.


Why just exercise when you can jazzercise? This blend of jazz and exercise, building off an older use of dancercise, has its first citation in 1976. 


In 1976, scientists discovered a substance produced in the brain that acted similarly to morphine. The French named it endorphine, from endogène (endogenous) and morphine, and we used the name endorphin.


A 1976 article in British music weekly Melody Maker called ABBA “the current kings of Euro-pop,” now defined by the OED as “pop music performed by musicians from continental Europe; esp. (occasionally mildly depreciative) that which is largely synthesized, with simple, usually upbeat melodies and lyrics, often sung in English.”


This term for “a small, snugly fitting woman's T-shirt” has its earliest citation in a Lima News (Ohio) photo caption about how “this spring will focus on the fresh-looking woman in Carol Horn's wrap skirt and blue cotton baby-tee.”


It was during the 1976 presidential election race between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford that the term exit poll came to be used to describe “a poll asking individually how people leaving a polling station have voted, used in predicting the result of an election.”


The phrase Super Tuesday was first used to refer to the general election, but during the 1976 presidential race we first saw it in reference to the primaries in a New York Times article about how “New York ... would open up a string of victories ... on super-Tuesday, June 8, in California, Ohio and New Jersey.”


It seems like relatively recent annoying management-speak, but going forward started as a substitute for "in the future" 40 years ago.


Though the phrase “good macro, but dismal micro, management” is attested in a 1975 Economist article, the verb to micromanage showed up as its own form in a 1976 article in Aviation Week in a mention of “our tendency to micro-manage research and development programs.” 


This casual phrase meaning to fasten one’s seat belt first came on the scene just as people started to actually use their seatbelts.


People were jump starting their cars with “jump leads” more than 40 years ago, but we first see the verb jump start in 1976, after which it also became a noun.

34. MEME

Richard Dawkins introduced the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene like this: “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. Mimeme comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like gene. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme ... It should be pronounced to rhyme with cream. Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.”

35. S***SHOW

The OED defines s***show as “a situation or state of affairs characterized by chaos, confusion, or incompetence; a mess, a shambles, a debacle. Sometimes expressing contempt for bad organization, poor execution of a task, etc.” It is first attested in the phrase “we don't want this shit-show any longer.”

36. DOG DO

We’ve come up with plenty of things to call it—dog dirt (1543), dog muck (1804), dog mess (1927), dog crap (1942), dog s*** (1944), and dog poop (1972)—but we still added dog do (or doo) to the list in 1976. 


Iconic is an old word for “pertaining to an icon or image,” but it was 40 years ago that it first came to be used as a way to refer to “a person or thing regarded as representative of a culture or movement; important or influential in a particular (cultural) context.”


Gloppy invokes both gluey and sloppy and is so perfect for some types of unappetizing food that it’s a wonder it doesn’t show up before 1976.


The origin of this term for silly or scatterbrained is unclear, but the first printed evidence for it is from an article in Texas Monthly, which reads, “besides menus of ‘ditzy ladies' things’, these places had loads of cozy charm.”

40. EDGY

Edgy was already in use for meanings like “having a lot of sharp edges,” or nervous and “on edge,” but in 1976 it took on the additional meaning of “cutting edge” or what “challenges received ideas or prevailing aesthetic sensibilities; at the forefront of a trend.” 

Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

Universal Pictures
Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.


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