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40 Words Turning 40 in 2017

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If you're turning 40 this year, you have something in common with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Saturday Night Fever, and the Chia Pet. You also got to grow up with these words, dated by first citation to 1977 in the Oxford English Dictionary.

1. SHAPEWEAR

By 1977, girdles were on the way out—but we got shapewear to take their place.

2. NIP AND TUCK

There was an older, 19th century sense of nip and tuck that referred to a close “neck and neck” competition, but by 1977, the phrase was claimed for minor cosmetic surgery.

3. PARTY ANIMAL

The first citation for party animal is from Bill Murray in an episode of Saturday Night Live.

4. BREWSKI

Another Saturday Night Live contribution. Also from Bill Murray, this time complaining to the coneheads that they put brewskis in the kids' trick-or-treat bags.

5. YOOPER

In 1977, the Escanaba Daily Press had a contest to come up with a name for residents of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, also know as the U.P. The finalists included U.P.ite, which didn’t stick, and Yooper, which did.

6. MICROWAVEABLE

Once we had microwaves, we needed a term to describe the type of packaging that was suitable to put into the microwave. At the same time we got microwaveable, we also got ovenable, for packaging that could, by contrast, go into a more traditional oven—but that word didn’t last as long.

7. WORK-LIFE

“Work-life balance” became an ideal to shoot for in the '70s, and as a result we got this adjective.

8. NO-NAME

There was a heyday 40 years ago for generics, or non-branded products, at the supermarket. As Time pointed out at the time, “No name groceries have become hot items.”

9. NANOCOMPUTER

We had microcomputer in the '50s. In the '70s, we started looking toward the even smaller nanocomputer.

10. MURDOCHIAN

We did see the word Murdochian as early as 1963, but then it referred to the philosophy of the writer Iris Murdoch. In 1977, it was first applied to the sensationalist tabloid style of publisher Rupert Murdoch.

11. PHALLOCRACY

Since 1965, the French had the word phallocratie for a male-dominated society (etymologically, “government run by penises”). In 1977, we made an English version.

12. MOORE’S LAW

In 1965, microchip manufacturer Gordon Earle Moore expressed the idea that the number of components that could fit on a chip would double every year. In 1977, the idea was called Moore’s Law and eventually came to stand for the idea that computers will keep getting better and faster while they also get smaller.

13. A-LISTER

We’ve been talking about the A-list, the most popular, exclusive, and sought-after folks, since the 1930s, but 40 years ago, an article about the band Kiss first applied the term A-listers to the members of this list: “it is snubbed by A-listers, since it panders to 14-year-olds.”

14. AT SIGN

The @ symbol itself has been around for hundreds of years, but we only have evidence for it being called the at sign since 1977. Before that, it was sometimes called the commercial at.

15. BIBIMBAP

In Korean, this dish of mixed rice and vegetables is pronounced more like pibimbap, but 40 years ago, when American culture started getting to know it, it came into English as bibimbap.

16. BRITPOP

The first citation for Britpop, in a 1977 issue of New Musical Express, refers to a band you might not expect: “At home The Sex Pistols are public enemies. In Sweden, they're an important visiting Britpop group.”

17. POST-PUNK

Punk had barely gotten started in 1977, but already there was a cited mention of a “post-punk disco” where a "new wave" band was to play.

18. STREET CREDIBILITY

A couple of years later, this term for "acceptability among, or popularity with, ordinary people, especially fashionable young urban people" was shortened to street cred. Which definitely has more street cred.

19. ‘BURB

Suburb is a very old word, going all the way back to the Middle Ages. Even suburbia goes back to the 19th century. But the 'burbs is now a young 40 years old.

20. CATFIGHT (VERB)

Cats have been fighting for a long time, but the verb to catfight or “fight in a vicious, cat-like manner, esp. by scratching, pulling hair and biting” dates to 1977.

21. CRINGEWORTHY

If what is praiseworthy is worthy of praise, then it makes sense that what is worthy of cringing at should be cringeworthy.

22. NEKKID

The pronunciation nekkid had long been a regional variant of naked, but 40 years ago it became its own word with a slightly different meaning: a purposely humorous, eyebrow wagging, sexually suggestive idea of nakedness.

23. FAST-TRACK

The term fast track originally comes from horse racing. By 1977, it had become a verb for doing things on an accelerated schedule.

24. FRO-YO

Calling frozen yogurt fro-yo made it sound a little more fun, but still didn’t make it ice cream.

25. GUILT-TRIP (VERB)

The noun guilt trip goes back to 1972, but by 1977 we had cut back the lengthy “lay a guilt trip on” to the simple verb, to guilt-trip.

26. INCENTIVIZATION

In the 1940s and '50s, people started talking about the concept of "incentive pay" or bonuses to encourage workers to be more productive. By 1968, we had the verb incentivize, and 1977 brought us incentivization.

27. KARAOKE

Karaoke (from a Japanese compound meaning “empty orchestra”) started in Japan in the 1970s. Though it didn’t really hit big in the English-speaking world until the '90s, we had already borrowed the word for it by 1977.

28. PLUS-ONE

Plus-one, for a guest brought to a party by someone else who was invited, got its start with the backstage music scene.

29. LOOSE CANNON

If a cannon is not tied down on a storm-tossed ship, it’s liable to do a lot of damage. People had long used this image as a metaphor for dangerously unpredictable behavior, but loose cannon became a set phrase for that metaphor 40 years ago.

30. SHOPAHOLIC

We got this word just in time for the dawn of mall culture.

31. UPSELLING

The idea of getting customers to buy something more expensive than they intended was already old 40 years ago, but this abstract noun for the idea was new.

32. SICKO

Pinkos, weirdos, and winos had already been around for a while by the time we came up with sicko.

33. STEADICAM

The patent for the Steadicam, an actively stabilized video camera, was granted to filmmaker Garrett W. Brown in 1977.

34. STEP-PARENTING

A 1977 article in the Washington Post referred to “step-parenting” problems.

35. STRAPPY

Strappy is 40 in the sartorial sense of strappy sandals and strappy sundresses.

36. SUPERSIZE (VERB)

Supersize as an adjective goes back to 1876, but the verb, to supersize something, shows up in 1977. It was popularized in the fast food sense after 1994.

37. TEXT MESSAGE

This phrase was introduced with the publication of “Standard for Format of ARPA Network Text Messages” from the Internet Engineering Task Force.

38. THINSULATE

This proprietary name for an insulating synthetic fabric has been with us for 40 years.

39. TRANSCRIPTIONIST

In the '70s audio recording had become easy and portable enough to be relied upon in many fields. This created the requirement for a new type of job: transcribing from audio. The first citation for transcriptionist is from a job ad for a medical transcriptionist.

40. WEDGIE

The OED dictionary definition for this word is delightfully thorough: “An act of pulling the cloth of a person's underwear, trousers, etc., tightly between the buttocks, esp. as a practical joke; any positioning of a person's underwear, pants, etc., resembling the result of such a pulling.”

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
NOAH SEELAM, AFP/Getty Images

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
GIUSEPPE CACACE, AFP/Getty Images

Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

Pregnant woman doing yoga.
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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

Woman running on the beach.
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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

Family playing in the park.
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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

Coworkers discussing a project on couches.
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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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