1995 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 50 words with first citations from 1995. In that year, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established; Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168; the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 5,000 for the first time; securities broker Nick Leeson caused the collapse of Barings Bank through illegal and high-risk speculation; the cult Aum Shinrikyo released Sarin nerve agent in the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and injuring over 5,000; computer hacker Kevin Mitnick was arrested by the FBI; O. J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges; and Pixar released Toy Story, the first all-CG feature-length film.

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The words of 1995:

ADSL, n. The Among the New Words column has this initialism for asynchronous digital subscriber line from 1995, although the OED records it from 1991, and the shorter DSL goes back to 1981.

avatar, n. This word for the manifestation of a Hindu god entered English from Sanskrit back in the eighteenth century, but it wasn’t until the late-twentieth century that the worlds of computing and science fiction took up avatar, using it to refer to a graphical representation of a person in a computer-generated environment. Among the New Words dates it to 1995, but the OED has the computer sense of avatar going back to 1986.

badly sourced, adj. This one is a journalistic euphemism for “false, inaccurate.”

battle rattle, n. This rhyming reduplication is military slang, referring to the gear that soldiers carry.

Bridezilla, n. Bridezillas are not a creation of American reality television programming. The term refers to a woman who becomes socially intolerable due to the stress of wedding planning. (There’s a 2003 citation in the OED for groomzilla, but the term for the male counterpart has never really caught on.) The OED also records the -zilla combining form from 1978; it’s from Godzilla, of course.

chicken-pox party, n. This one ranks pretty high in the scale of really bad ideas. A chicken-pox party is one where healthy children are deliberately brought into contact with children already infected with chicken pox so that they may contract the disease at a time that’s convenient for the parents.

courtesy call, n. Another euphemism, this one is an unsolicited telephone call by a salesperson.

crawler, n. A crawler is a program used by a search engine to identify sites. Among the New Words has this sense from 1995, although the OED antedates it by a year. (Cf. spider)

crunk, adj. and n.2 A hip-hop adjective, something that’s crunk is “exciting, fun.”

cybersquatter, n. This term appears in the OED in 1995 in the sense of “a person who posts antagonistic messages to a computer discussion forum, a troll,” but that appears to be a nonce usage. The more common sense, that of “a person who registers the URL of a well-known name in order to sell it later” appears in 1996.

ego-surf, v. (also ego-surfing, n.) By 1995 people were already searching the internet for references to themselves.

e-tailer, n. (also e-tailing, n.) The internet was becoming a place of commerce by 1995.

e-ticket, n. (also e-ticketing, n.) And even airlines started booking seats via the internet.

extranet, n. Between an intranet and the internet there can be an extranet. Extranets are corporate networks that include outside users, often customers.

hacktivist, n. This blend of hacker and activist appears in the Village Voice in 1995.

hyperlink, n. (also hyperlink, v.) another Among the New Words entry that the OED antedates; this time to 1988.

internet telephone, n. Long before Skype existed, people were using the internet to get around long-distance telephone charges.

legacy, adj. The sense of this word used by the computing industry refers to old software and hardware that is so integral to the operation of an organization that it cannot be easily replaced. Among the New Words pegs it to 1995, but the OED has antedated it to 1989.

Macarena, n. In the “what were we thinking” category, the dance craze swept the world in 1995.

meatspace, n. This computing slang retronym for the physical world arises to distinguish it from cyberspace.

meta tag, n. Websites started incorporating meta tags, lines of code containing key words to help search engines categorize the page. Because they are subject to abuse, few search engines use them anymore.

metadata, n. Among the New Words has this from 1995, but the OED antedates it all the way to 1979. Metadata is data that describes other data, such as the date a file was last accessed or updated.

MILF, n. This one is an acronym for mother/mom I’d like to fuck, referring to a sexually attractive older woman, usually of early middle age, and not necessarily a mother.

M-theory, n. This name for a unifying theory in superstring physics was coined in 1995. The M is for membrane. (I’m not going to attempt to describe the theory, as I will only get it wrong.)

net computer, n. Also seen as internet computer, this term applies to minimally capable computers designed for email and web surfing. (Cf. thin client.)

new media, n. Among the New Words has this term from 1995, but the OED records new media from way back in 1960.

portal, n. Another one antedated in the OED, which has the computing sense of portal from 1990, referring to a server or web site that provides access to the internet.

Propecia, n. This brand name for the anti-baldness drug finasteride was trademarked in 1995.

roofie, n. A drug of a different sort, this is the slang name for Rohypnol, a tranquilizer used as a date-rape drug.

shovel-ready, adj. This adjective popped to the fore with the U. S. government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis, but the term referring to a project that can be started immediately upon receipt of funding dates to 1995.

sildenafil, n. Yet another drug that panders to baser instincts of men hit the market in 1995. Sildenafil is better known by its brand name, Viagra, a name which appears in 1996.

Silicon Alley, n. A play on the more famous Silicon Valley of California, Silicon Alley refers to the high-tech and internet firms operating out of lower Manhattan during the dotcom boom.

spider, n. A spider is a program used by a search engine to identify sites. Among the New Words has this sense from 1995, although the OED antedates it to 1993. (Cf. crawler)

thin client, n. Among the New Words has this one from 1995, but the OED has it from 1992. A thin client is a “dumb” terminal on a network, one that has little or no processing capability of its own. (Cf. network computer.)

viral marketing, n. This new name for word-of-mouth marketing, updated to use the technologies of the internet age, went big in the mid-1990s, but the OED traces it back to 1989.

walking piñata, n. This wonderfully evocative phrase refers to a person subjected to relentless derision and scorn.

Webaholic, n. As early as 1995, internet addiction was being recognized as a problem.

webcam, n. Interestingly, the earliest references to webcams are to a helmet-mounted model, but as they proliferated, the desktop webcam became the standard.

webcast, v. (also webcast, n. and webcasting, n.) Clearly, video was the big innovation for the web in 1995.

wiki, n. From the Hawaiian wiki, “quick,” this type of wiki is a web page that can be edited by its users. Wikipedia is perhaps the most famous wiki, but it is only one of millions.

Y2K, n. An abbreviation for year 2000, this term came to represent the host of computing problems anticipated with the rollover from the 1900s to the 2000s.

These words are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, based on that dictionary’s earliest citation for that word. I’ve also taken words from the Among the New Words column in the journal American Speech; and in many cases these words have been antedated by the OED.  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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