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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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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
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GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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