1906 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 487 words with first citations from 1906. In that year, barflies could drink calvados, and teetotalers could make do with Ovaltine and Dr. Pepper; women went to salons to be coiffured with permanent waves; psychologists discussed pedophilia and zoophilia; and stenos with their Parker pens were being replaced by Dictaphones.

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Events of 1906:

  • January: The Algeciras Conference convenes to resolve the First Moroccan Crisis; the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 100 for the first time.
  • February: Construction of the U. S. federal penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is completed.
  • March: Henry Royce and Charles Rolls found Rolls Royce, Ltd.; women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony dies.
  • April: The San Francisco earthquake and fire level the city.
  • May: The Wright brothers patent their airplane; playwright Henrik Ibsen dies.
  • June: The RMS Lusitania is launched.
  • July: Albert Dreyfus is exonerated and reinstated into the French army.
  • August: Cuban President Tomés Estrada Palma asks for U. S. military intervention in the island and U. S. troops promptly depose his government and occupy the island.
  • September: The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is designated as the first U. S. National Monument.
  • October: Painter Paul Cézanne dies.
  • November: U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt visits Panama, becoming the first U. S. president to visit a foreign nation while in office.
  • December: The HMS Dreadnought is commissioned by the Royal Navy; the U-1 submarine is commissioned by the German Kaiserliche Marine.

The words of 1906:

acetylcholine, n. The neurotransmitter got its name in 1906.

autoloader, n. (also autoloading, adj.) This word originated in firearms and later transferred to other devices, like cameras.

barfly, n. I’ve always thought of barflies as being women, but evidently this is not so. The 1906 citation in the OED, which is from a detective story, reads, “three dull-witted bar-flies—thick, beer-soaked toughs, such as hang about the East Side bar-rooms.”

calvados, n. The distilled cider takes its name from the region in Normandy where it is made.

cannonball, v. This Americanism means to move very rapidly, like a cannonball.

chemotherapy, n. The original sense of chemotherapy was simply the treatment of a disease with a specific chemical agent. It isn’t until later that the word becomes specifically associated with cancer treatments. The English word is borrowed from the German Chemotherapie.

coiffure, v. The noun, which dates to the seventeenth century, was verbed in 1906.

colonic, adj. The adjective appears in medical literature around 1906. Its use as a noun meaning “enema,” especially in the phrase high colonic, doesn’t appear until 1948.

counterterrorist, adj. and n. It’s not a post-9-11 word.

demi-glace, n. The French cooking term had soaked its way into English by 1906.

Dictaphone, n. The trade name for a dictating machine appears this year. In 1906, Dictaphones recorded the voice on wax cylinders.

Dr. Pepper, n. The soft drink had been served in Texas since 1885, but in 1906 the name was trademarked.

freestyle, adj. and n. The sports term makes its debut. The OED’s 1906 citation is in reference to a freestyle discus competition.

Inc. adj. The U. S. abbreviation for incorporated makes its debut.

industrialization, n. By 1906, the Industrial Revolution had been underway for some two centuries, but the word industrialization had just made its appearance.

inhalatorium, n. This is one you don’t hear much anymore. Although kids today could revive inhalatorium as a fancy name for a hot box. In 1906 various respiratory ailments were treated with vaporized medicines administered in such rooms.

lotta, adj. The colloquial contraction of lot of sees its way into published works.

lowbrow, n. and adj. This one is from 1906. The noun Highbrow comes in two years later, and middlebrow appears in the 1920s, although the adjective highbrow is older, dating from at least 1884.

Menshevik, n. and adj. In 1903, a vote held at the second congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party resulted in Lenin’s faction winning by a single vote and being called the Bolsheviks “members of the majority.” The opposition were the Mensheviks “members of the minority.” The names stuck. In 1906, in the wake of the failed 1905 Russian revolution, the word made its appearance in English.

moonquake, n. In 1906 these were thought to be nonexistent. Subsequent science has shown that there is, in fact, seismic activity on the moon.

nyah, int., n., and adj. Dating taunts like nyah, nyah, nyah is tricky, but the OED gives a 1906 date.

Ovaltine, n. Maltine is a nineteenth-century trade name for a malt extract used as a dietary supplement. The Swiss manufacturer added dried egg to the mixture and called it Ovomaltine. But when time came to market the drink mix in Britain, they shortened the name to Ovaltine.

pedophilia, n. Psychologists gave this disorder its name in 1906.

Parker, n.2 Another trade name, this one for the brand of pen.

peptide, n. Biochemists were already working with dipeptides, tripeptides, and polypeptides, so in 1906 they just simplified things and started calling all them peptides.

permanent wave, n. The first citation in the OED for this hairstyle comes from a 1906 ad for a beauty shop in Wauwautosa, Wisconsin. Which isn’t really important, but how many opportunities in your lifetime do you get to write “Wauwautosa, Wisconsin”?

photovoltaic, adj. Practical solar energy would take another century, but the word photovoltaic appears in 1906.

rep, n.8 This particular rep is the theatrical shortening of repertory.

re-up, v. To re-up is U. S. military slang for “to reenlist.” The up , according to the OED, is a reference to raising one’s right hand to take the oath of enlistment.

Sachertorte, n. The name for the Viennese chocolate cake starts appearing in English-language cookbooks in 1906.

side-kick, n. Actually, the longer side-kicker appears a few years earlier in 1903, but was surpassed by the far more common side-kick.

snarky, adj. This one first appears in E. Nesbit’s classic children’s novel The Railway Children.

steno, n. Another clipping, this one of stenographer or stenographic.

suffragette, n. Women’s enfranchisement was a major political topic at the turn of the twentieth century, and suffragettes were the movement’s icons.

tarp, n. A clipping of tarpaulin.

tightwad, n. (and adj.)The U. S. slang term makes its appearance in 1906, but the OED has a 1900 citation of “the Tightest Wad in the Township.”

Triscuit, n. Nabisco trademarked the Triscuit cracker in 1906.

tyrannosaurus, n. The dinosaur got its name in this year.

undies, n. People get a peek at this term for unmentionables in this year.

yup, adv. I don’t have great confidence in anyone’s ability, even that of the editors of the OED, to precisely date terms like this. But the first citation in the big dictionary is from 1906.

zoophilia, n. The psychological term for a sexual attraction to animals is coined.

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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