1974 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 222 words with first citations from 1974. In that year,we saw calls for slow food and Trumanesque politicians; banoffi pies and carpaccio were on the menu, but if you ate too fast the guys in the ambo could give you the Heimlich maneuver; people feared what the Moonies and Dungeons and Dragons were doing to the youth; and Sensurround and teletext hit the big and small screens.

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Events of 1974:

  • January: The United States imposes a 55 mph nationwide speed limit; Happy Days and The Six Million Dollar Man premiere on ABC-TV; Peter Benchley publishes the novel Jaws; filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn dies.
  • February: Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).
  • March: People magazine is first published; Japanese Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda finally surrenders in the Philippines after being convinced by his former commanding officer that WWII is indeed over; the Arab oil embargo ends; the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang is discovered in Xi’an, China.
  • April: Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s career home run record; ABBA wins the Eurovision song contest with Waterloo; Patty Hearst is photographed carrying a weapon during an SLA bank robbery; Stephen King publishes his novel Carrie; French President Georges Pompidou and comedian Bud Abbott die.
  • May: India detonates a nuclear weapon; Ray Stevens’s The Streak becomes the number one hit in the United States; composer Duke Ellington dies.
  • June: The first Universal Product Code (UPC) is scanned during a product sale; Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov dies.
  • July: The U. S. House Judiciary Committee votes to impeach U. S. President Nixon; former U. S. Chief Justice Earl Warren, physicist James Chadwick, and musician Cass Elliott die.
  • August: U. S. President Richard Nixon resigns as a result of the Watergate scandal; Gerald Ford becomes the first, and only, man to assume the presidency without being elected to either the presidency or vice-presidency; Philippe Petit walks a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York; Turkey invades Cyprus; aviator Charles Lindbergh dies.
  • September: An SR-71 Blackbird aircraft flies from New York to London in under one hour fifty-five minutes; President Ford pardons Nixon;
  • October: Muhammad Ali knocks out George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire to regain the heavyweight boxing championship; Frank Robinson becomes the first African-American major league baseball manager; television host Ed Sullivan and industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust, die.
  • November: the United Nations grants the Palestinian Liberation Organization observer status; the skeleton of the Australopithecus afarensis named Lucy is discovered; the Atlanta Braves trade Hank Aaron; Ella Grasso of Connecticut becomes the first woman elected governor who was not the wife of the previous governor; boxer James J. Braddock dies.
  • December: Japanese soldier Teruo Nakamura surrenders in Indonesia; the final episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus airs on the BBC; journalist Walter Lippmann and comedian Jack Benny die.

The words of 1974:

ambo, n.2 This clipping of ambulance is recorded from 1974.

banoffi, n. This blend of banana and toffee was created at the Hungry Monk restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex in 1972. The OED records the use of banoffi pie from two years later in a cookbook published by The Hungry Monk.

Bikram yoga, n. Bikram Choudhury invented this style of yoga.

carpaccio, n. I would have suspected carpaccio was much older, and while the 1974 citation in the OED can probably be antedated somewhat, the dish is a relatively new one. The thin slices of raw, marinated beef were allegedly first served by Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1961. Cipriani named the dish after fifteenth-century painter Vittore Carpaccio, who was known for favoring a distinctive red, raw-beef-like coloring in his work.

chopsocky, adj. and n. This word used to describe and denote action sequences in martial arts films is in place by 1974.

closed captioning, n. The technology for encoding subtitles into a television broadcast makes its debut.

Dungeons and Dragons, n. E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson first publish the rules to this fantasy role-playing game in 1974.

floss, v.2 Floss is an eighteenth century word of obscure origin for silk fiber. The use of the word to refer to dental floss dates to at least 1936, but the OED doesn’t record the verb until 1974.

Heimlich maneuver, n. U. S. physician Henry Heimlich publishes his technique for treating choking.

heli-skiing, n. Skiers fed up with crowded slopes and packed snow at ski resorts begin to take helicopters to the tops of mountains.

hosebag, n. The slang term for a sexually promiscuous woman makes its appearance.

internet, n. Computer scientist Vint Cerf first used the word internet to refer to interconnected networks in 1974.

Kevlar, n. The synthetic fiber is patented in this year.

Laura Ashley, n. The British fashion designer trademarks her name in 1974.

Lucy, n.2 The skeleton of the 3.2 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis is discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. The discoverers name it after the Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

meds, n. The clipping for medications is first cited from this year.

Moonie, n. The founder of the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, is the source for this colloquial name for members of the organization.

natty, adj.2 and n.2 Not to be confused with the other sense of natty, which means “neat, fashionable” and dates to the eighteenth century, this natty refers to matted or uncombed hair, especially dreadlocks. It’s of Caribbean origin and a variation on knotty.

Nicorette, n. Chewing gum containing nicotine, used to help break tobacco addiction, hits the market.

Nikkei, n. In 1974 the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japan Economic Journal) took over calculation of the index of the Tokyo stock market, and the index took on an acronymic name Nikkei based the newspaper’s name.

Ozzie and Harriet, n. and adj. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet aired its last episode on U. S. television in 1966, but eight years later the names of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson had become synonymous with wholesome, traditional, American domesticity.

pepperpot, v. Originally a New Zealand verb for the practice of interspersing Maoris in predominately white neighborhoods, it spreads to Australia and Britain, applied to other ethnic groups.

pro-choice, adj. (and n.) A political buzzword makes its debut.

rotavirus, n. This genus of virus takes its name from its wheel-like shape.

Sensurround, n. One of the many gimmicks used by Hollywood to boost ticket sales, Sensurround, which used the theater’s sound system to create tremors during action sequences, was developed for the 1974 film Earthquake. Used in a handful of other films, it’s chiefly remembered today for its failure.

slow food, n. The Slow Food organization was founded in Italy in 1989, but the term predates the formal movement by over a decade. Slow food, as originally used, is prepared and eaten in the traditional fashion, in contrast to fast food. The term as used by the formal slow food movement is more specific, referring to food relying on local culinary tradition and eschewing products of large agribusiness in favor of that produced on small farms.

Sowetan, n. The acronym Soweto stands for South Western Townships, the black ghettos outside of Johannesburg. With the increasing Western news coverage of the practices of the South African policies of apartheid, this term for those who lived there makes its way into the vocabulary.

teletext, n. The use of televisions to broadcast alphanumeric information (something akin to the early World Wide Web) begins. Widely used in Britain and Europe, teletext never made inroads into the U. S. market.

transgender, adj. and n. The term transsexual appears almost two decades earlier, but like all such categorizations, the concept has continually adopted new names as the old ones take on unwanted connotations and specific meanings.

trifecta, n. This type of bet makes its debut in horseracing. In a trifecta the bettor attempts to predict the first three finishers of a race in order.

Trumanesque, adj. Hugely unpopular when he left office in 1953, the candor and forthrightness of former U. S. President Harry Truman earned him a revival of respect in the 1970s in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam.

ultralight, adj. and n. The small, light aircraft get a name.

These words are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, based on that dictionary’s earliest citation for that word. Of course, that does not necessarily mean the word was coined in the given year; it only means that is the earliest date the big dictionary has for the word. In many cases, these words can and have been antedated. My selection is not scientific or systematic; it is based on what I think is interesting; sometimes they are words that appear earlier or later than I would have thought; others have a particular historical affiliation for that year or represent some historical trend; and others are just odd words. I’m avoiding back-formations and variations on existing words. Again, be warned that the coining of a word does not necessarily coincide with the invention of a concept. Often, there will be older words that express the same sense.

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