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25 Words Turning 25 in 2016

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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.

1. BESTIE

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.”

2. CROWD-SURF

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. 

4. PESCATARIAN

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.

6. CONLANG

This word for “constructed language” arose in Usenet newsgroups where people discussed the then-newly burgeoning hobby of making up languages.

7. HOT-DESKING

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.

9. TIGHTY-WHITIES

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.

12. PHARMING

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.”

13. CYBERCASTING

Remember the cyber days? This word for an internet broadcast had its time in the '90s, but eventually faded away.

14. CYBERSEX

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."

16. GIRLF

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).”

18. HETERONORMATIVE

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.”

19. LARPER

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.

22. TASE

The Taser was invented in 1972, but we got the verb to tase much later.

23. BOARDERCROSS

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. 

25. BABELICIOUS

It’s been 25 years since the Saturday Night Live sketch "Wayne’s World" introduced us to babelicious. Party time! Excellent!

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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language
Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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