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25 Words Turning 25 in 2017

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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.

1. VACAY

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.

2. TRUSTAFARIAN

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.

4. SQUOVAL

This blend of square and oval was formed to name the hot manicure style of 1992, a squared-off oval nail shape.

5. SKEEZY

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.

6. SADSTER

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.”

7. POLYAMORY

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.

9. METAVERSE

Metaverse, from meta-universe, became a term for virtual worlds after it was introduced by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.

10. MEH

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.”

11. INTERNAUT

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.

12. GRRRL

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.”

13. BIOHACKING

The ethical problem of renegade hobbyists playing around with genes was something worrying enough to warrant the creation of the term biohacking in 1992.

14. FRANKEN-

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.

15. ALTERNA-

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.

16. FASHIONISTA

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.

17. DIGERATI

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.

18. CYBERWAR

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.”

19. BOOTYLICIOUS

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.

20. BADASSERY

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.

21. ACHY-BREAKY

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.

22. EATERTAINMENT

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.

23. RESTOBAR

Another blend for a type of bar/nightclub that also serves food, from restaurant + bar plus a hip, European feel.

24. TURNTABLIST

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.

25. URL

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.

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Afternoon Map
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
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There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
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The Body
10 Facts About the Appendix
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Despite some 500 years of study, the appendix might be one of the least understood structures in the human body. Here's what we know about this mysterious organ.

1. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS CALLED IT THE "WORM" OF THE BOWEL.

The human appendix is small, tube-shaped, and squishy, giving ancient Egyptians, who encountered it when preparing bodies for funerary rites, the impression of a worm. Even today, some medical texts refer to the organ as vermiform—Latin for "worm-like."

2. THE APPENDIX SHOWS UP IN LEONARDO DA VINCI’S DRAWINGS.

The earliest description of a human appendix was written by the Renaissance physician-anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi in 1521. But before that, Leonardo da Vinci is believed to drawn the first depiction of the organ in his anatomical drawings in 1492. Leonardo claimed to have dissected 30 human corpses in his effort to understand the way the body worked from mechanical and physiological perspectives.

3. IT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A PINKY FINGER.

The appendix is a small pouch connected to the cecum—the beginning of the large intestine in the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen. The cecum’s job is to receive undigested food from the small intestine, absorb fluids and salts that remain after food is digested, and mix them with mucus for easier elimination; according to Mohamad Abouzeid, M.D., assistant professor and attending surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, the cecum and appendix have similar tissue structures.

4. CHARLES DARWIN THOUGHT IT WAS A VESTIGIAL ORGAN …

The appendix has an ill-deserved reputation as a vestigial organ—meaning that it allegedly evolved without a detectable function—and we can blame Charles Darwin for that. In the mid-19th century, the appendix had been identified only in humans and great apes. Darwin thought that our earlier ancestors ate mostly plants, and thus needed a large cecum in which to break down the tough fibers. He hypothesized that over time, apes and humans evolved to eat a more varied and easier-to-digest diet, and the cecum shrank accordingly. The appendix itself, Darwin believed, emerged from the folds of the wizened cecum without its own special purpose.

5. … BUT THE APPENDIX PROBABLY EVOLVED TO HELP IMMUNE FUNCTION.

The proximity and tissue similarities between the cecum and appendix suggest that the latter plays a part in the digestive process. But there’s one noticeable difference in the appendix that you can see only under a microscope. “[The appendix] has a high concentration of the immune cells within its walls,” Abouzeid tells Mental Floss.

Recent research into the appendix's connection to the immune system has suggested a few theories. In a 2015 study in Nature Immunology, Australian researchers discovered that a type of immune cells called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) proliferate in the appendix and seem to encourage the repopulation of symbiotic bacteria in the gut. This action may help the gut recover from infections, which tend to wipe out fluids, nutrients, and good bacteria.

For a 2013 study examining the evolutionary rationale for the appendix in mammal species, researchers at Midwestern University and Duke University Medical Center concluded that the organ evolved at least 32 times among different lineages, but not in response to dietary or environmental factors.

The same researchers analyzed 533 mammal species for a 2017 study and found that those with appendices had more lymphatic (immune) tissue in the cecum. That suggests that the nearby appendix could serve as "a secondary immune organ," the researchers said in a statement. "Lymphatic tissue can also stimulate growth of some types of beneficial gut bacteria, providing further evidence that the appendix may serve as a 'safe house' for helpful gut bacteria." This good bacteria may help to replenish healthy flora in the gut after infection or illness.

6. ABOUT 7 PERCENT OF AMERICANS WILL GET APPENDICITIS DURING THEIR LIFETIMES.

For such a tiny organ, the appendix gets infected easily. According to Abouzeid, appendicitis occurs when the appendix gets plugged by hardened feces (called a fecalith or appendicolith), too much mucus, or the buildup of immune cells after a viral or bacterial infection. In the United States, the lifetime risk of getting appendicitis is one in 15, and incidence in newly developed countries is rising. It's most common in young adults, and most dangerous in the elderly.

When infected, the appendix swells up as pus fills its interior cavity. It can grow several times larger than its average 3-inch size: One inflamed appendix removed from a British man in 2004 measured just over 8 inches, while another specimen, reported in 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, measured 8.6 inches. People with appendicitis might feel generalized pain around the bellybutton that localizes on the right side of the abdomen, and experience nausea or vomiting, fever, or body aches. Some people also get diarrhea.

7. APPENDECTOMIES ARE ALMOST 100 PERCENT EFFECTIVE FOR TREATING APPENDICITIS.

Treatment for appendicitis can go two ways: appendectomy, a.k.a. surgical removal of the appendix, or a first line of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. Appendectomies are more than 99 percent effective against recurring infection, since the organ itself is removed. (There have been cases of "stump appendicitis," where an incompletely removed appendix becomes infected, which often require further surgery.)

Studies show that antibiotics produce about a 72 percent initial success rate. “However, if you follow these patients out for about a year, they often get recurrent appendicitis,” Abouzeid says. One 2017 study in the World Journal of Surgery followed 710 appendicitis patients for a year after antibiotic treatment and found a 26.5 percent recurrence rate for subsequent infections.

8. AN INFECTED APPENDIX DOESN’T ACTUALLY BURST.

You might imagine a ruptured appendix, known formally as a perforation, being akin to the "chestbuster" scene in Alien. Abouzeid says it's not quite that dramatic, though it can be dangerous. When the appendix gets clogged, pressure builds inside the cavity of the appendix, called the lumen. That chokes off blood supply to certain tissues. “The tissue dies off and falls apart, and you get perforation,” Abouzeid says. But rather than exploding, the organ leaks fluids that can infect other tissues.

A burst appendix is a medical emergency. Sometimes the body can contain the infection in an abscess, Abouzeid says, which may be identified through CT scans or X-rays and treated with IV antibiotics. But if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the abdomen, a serious condition called peritonitis. At that point, the infection can become life-threatening.

9. SURGEONS CAN REMOVE AN APPENDIX THROUGH A TINY INCISION.

In 1894, Charles McBurney, a surgeon at New York's Roosevelt Hospital, popularized an open-cavity, muscle-splitting technique [PDF] to remove an infected appendix, which is now called an open appendectomy. Surgeons continued to use McBurney's method until the advent of laparoscopic surgery, a less invasive method in which the doctor makes small cuts in the patient's abdomen and threads a thin tube with a camera and surgical tools into the incisions. The appendix is removed through one of those incisions, which are usually less than an inch in length.

The first laparoscopic appendectomies were performed by German physician Kurt Semm in the early 1980s. Since then, laparoscopic appendectomies have become the standard treatment for uncomplicated appendicitis. For more serious infections, open appendectomies are still performed.

10. AN APPENDIX ONCE POSTPONED A ROYAL CORONATION.

When the future King Edward VII of Great Britain came down with appendicitis (or "perityphlitis," as it was called back then) in June 1902, mortality rates for the disease were as high as 26 percent. It was about two weeks before his scheduled coronation on June 26, 1902, and Edward resisted having an appendectomy, which was then a relatively new procedure. But surgeon and appendicitis expert Frederick Treves made clear that Edward would probably die without it. Treves drained Edward's infected abscess, without removing the organ, at Buckingham Palace; Edward recovered and was crowned on August 9, 1902.

11. THE WORLD'S LONGEST APPENDIX MEASURED MORE THAN 10 INCHES.

On August 26, 2006, during an autopsy at a Zagreb, Croatia hospital, surgeons obtained a 10.24-inch appendix from 72-year-old Safranco August. The deceased currently holds the Guinness World Record for "largest appendix removed."

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