The Oxford English Dictionary has 457 words with first citations from 1935. In that year, Muzak began playing schmaltzy riffs, people began moving to the rhythms of the beguine and the conga, and comedian Bob Burns played a wacky new instrument he called the bazooka. In the world of virology, the papillomavirus made its debut. And Hitler created the Luftwaffe and turned the Wehrmacht from a paramilitary force into a full-fledged army.
Events of 1935:
- January: Italy unites its colonies of Tripoli and Cyrenaica to form the colony of Libya; Amelia Earhart becomes the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California; canned beer goes on sale in the United States; Kate “Ma” Barker and her son Fred are killed by the F. B. I.; U. S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. dies.
- February: Bruno Richard Hauptman is convicted and sentenced to death for the Lindbergh kidnapping.
- March: Porky Pig makes his cinematic debut; Hitler begins to rearm Germany.
- April: Fibber McGee and Molly debuts on NBC Radio; Sun Myung Moon claims to have a revelation from Jesus; Adolf Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, dies.
- May: The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is created in the U. S.; T. E. Lawrence dies in a motorcycle accident; the first Major League Baseball night game is played; Babe Ruth plays his last game of professional baseball (not the same game); social worker Jane Addams dies.
- June: Alcoholics Anonymous is founded; James J. Braddock defeats Max Baer to become the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
- July: Automaker André Citroën and falsely convicted French soldier Alfred Dreyfus die.
- August: President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act; humorist Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post die in a plane crash near Barrow, Alaska.
- September: U. S. Senator Huey Long is assassinated in Baton Rouge; Howard Hughes sets an airspeed record of 566 km/h (352 mph); the antisemitic Nuremberg Laws go into effect in Germany.
- October: Italy invades Ethiopia (again), conquering it this time.
- November: Parker Brothers releases the game Monopoly; U. S. labor leaders create the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C. I. O.); Pan Am’s China Clipper makes the first trans-Pacific airmail run, from Alameda, California to Manila; researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris discover the anti-bacterial agent sulfanilamide.
- December: The prototype of the Douglas DC-3 flies for the first time, perhaps the most successful commercial airplane of all time, over 30,000 would be made (including Russian Li-2 and U. S. military C-47 models); Mao Zedong calls for a united front with the Kuomintang against the Japanese.
The words of 1935:
4-H’er, n. 4-H is a government-sponsored youth organization founded in the United States, traditionally aimed at educating rural children in civic responsibility and agricultural skills. The OED records the name 4-H from 1918 and the term 4-H’er for a member of the organization from 1935. The four Hs are head, heart, hands, and health.
air-to-ground, adj. This military jargon term is recorded in the London Times in August 1935. It refers to aerial attacks on targets on the ground.
al dente, adv. (and adj.) From an Italian phrase that literally means “to the tooth,” this culinary term used of pasta is recorded in English usage from 1935.
autodialing, n. This technology which has allowed telemarketers to more efficiently interrupt your dinner is documented by the noun autodial in 1934 and autodialing in 1935.
bazooka, n. The original bazooka was a makeshift musical instrument similar to a trombone. It was invented by comedian Bob Burns, and the name is recorded by Newsweek in December 1935. The anti-tank weapon, which resembles the instrument, got its name by 1943.
beguine, n.2 The beguine is a dance coming out of Martinique in the Caribbean. It gained wider fame in 1935 with Cole Porter’s song Begin the Beguine.
bloodhound, v. (also bird-dog, v.) The verb to bloodhound “to pursue relentlessly” is recorded in 1935. The similar to bird-dog is also recorded in the same year. The noun bird-dog in the sense of “scout, talent scout” is found in 1934.
Broederbond, n. This secret society of Afrikaners was founded in 1918, but its name isn’t recorded in the London Times until 1935.
centrism, n. The name for this political philosophy, although philosophy not quite the right word, is recorded in 1935.
codependent, adj. As used in the 1930s, this was solely a term in mathematics and logic. The psychological sense isn’t recorded until 1979.
conga, n. The Latin American line dance wormed its way into Western culture in 1935.
crack-down, n. The noun is recorded in 1935, the verb in 1940.
Crohn’s disease, n. Pathologist B. B. Crohn described this gastro-intestinal illness in 1932. Within three years it had been named for him.
cyclotron, n. Physicist Ernest Lawrence invented this apparatus for accelerating atomic particles in the early 1930s. He described and named it in a 1935 issue of The Physical Review.
defibrillation, n. Fibrillation is 1) the state of being divided into fibers; or 2) quivering movement in fibrillated tissue, as in the heart muscle. As used in 1935, defibrillation is the separating of tissue fibers. It isn’t until 1940 that the word is applied to stopping fibrillation of the heart, which is the sense most people are familiar with today.
ecosystem, n. It would take decades for the popular environmental movement to catch up, but biologists were talking about ecosystems as early as 1935.
footy | footie, n. Also called footsy or footsie, this word for flirting with the feet is found in Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here. (Which is about a fascist takeover of the United States. Go figure.)
freestyle, v. The adjective and noun usage of this sports word are found as early as 1906, but by 1935 it was being used as a verb.
gook, n. This derogatory term for a foreigner, especially an Asian, is recorded by American Speech in 1935. In that use it is applied to Filipinos.
haircare, n. The Cosmetologists’ Hair Care Manual was published in 1935.
hasta la vista, int. (and n.) Decades before Arnold Schwarzenegger made this a catchphrase, it had worked its way into English from Spanish.
Luftwaffe, n. In German this word literally means “air weapon,” but it’s better translated as “air force.” In 1935 Germany created its Luftwaffe, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles which forbade them from creating an air force.
magnum, n.2 and adj. The name for the type of firearm cartridge was trademarked in 1935.
male chauvinism, n. Chauvinism has been around since the late-nineteenth century referring to an extreme and bellicose nationalism. It’s named after a probably fictional former French soldier, Nicolas Chauvin. But in 1935 the male was added to the term to denote the belief that men are inherently superior to women.
Muzak, n. The name for this system of playing recorded music, usually blandly annoying, was trademarked in 1935. The name is usually attributed to George Squier, the inventor and founder of the company. In 1974 the then-president of the company said the name was formed from a combination of music and Kodak, an invented brand name that Squier admired. This may be true, but corporate marketing departments have a habit of making up stories like this, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.
neurolinguistic, adj. The adjective referring to language and its relation to the structure and function of the brain appears about this time.
papillomavirus, n. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been much in the news of late, but the word dates back to at least 1935.
paramilitary, adj. and n. The adjective paramilitaire is recorded in French from 1920. The English word might be a calque of that, or it could just be a parallel development.
Pentothal, n. This proprietary name for the anesthetic thiopental is found from 1935.
Phillips, n.1 In 1933, Henry French Phillips invented a screw with crossed slots in its head. Within two years they were on the market bearing his name.
photo finish, n. The first reference in the OED to this tool in judging the outcome of a horse race (or other sporting event) is from a 1935 article in the Washington Post about a race at the Santa Anita track in California where famed horse Equipoise, in the twilight of his racing career, lost.
Plexiglas, n. and adj. The name was trademarked in 1935.
retiree, n. The use of retired as a noun dates to a few years earlier, at least 1923, but the OED records retiree from 1935.
riboflavin, n. This name for vitamin B2 was isolated and synthesized by German chemists in the early 1930s. They dubbed it riboflavin in 1935, from the sugar ribose and flavin, from the Latin flavus “yellow,” a reference to the yellow color of the oxidized molecule.
riff, n.5 and v.1 This term for a repeated musical phrase or improvisation is recorded in jazz speech from at least 1935. The verb meaning to play such a phrase appears about the same time. But like many musical terms of this nature, it probably existed for some period before being written down so that lexicographers would notice it. And indeed, the gerund riffing is found from 1933, so the noun and verb are almost certainly older.
schmaltz, n. (and schmaltzy, adj.) Schmaltz, from either German or Yiddish, has two distinct meanings, “chicken fat” and “sentimentality, emotionalism.” Both meanings appear to have been imported into English at the same time, as both senses are recorded in English use by the OED from 1935. The adjective schmaltzy, “overly sentimental,” also appears that year. Early citations of the figurative sense are in the context of music.
seat-of-the-pants, adj. This adjective meaning “instinctual, without plan” comes from the world of aviation. The OED’s first citation, from the October 1935 issue of Popular Science Monthly, sums up the origin well and indicates the term dates to about a decade earlier:
“Ten years ago, blind flying was known as ‘seat-of-the-pants’ flying, for fog-bound pilots without instruments soon learned to tell whether they were flying right-side-up by the pressure against their parachute packs.”
The dictionary concludes the adjective is from the phrase by the seat of one’s pants, but only records that phrase from 1938.
tomography, n. Tomography encompasses a range of techniques for obtain images of layers of an object, and the term is probably most familiar from the world of medical imaging. The word comes from the Greek τόμος “slice, section” and -graphy. The original tomography used x-rays, but other methods, including ultrasound and radio waves (MRI), are now in use.
value added tax, n. Governments will always be thinking of new ways to tax you. This one dates to the 1930s.
video-, comb. form The OED has this from the September 1935 issue of Discovery magazine, “those who wish [...] to see such ‘video’ items as may become available. By 1937 compounds such as video amplifier, video frequency, and video signal were in use.
virology, n. The modern sense of virus, used to identify those particular pathogenic entities that are smaller than bacteria, only dates to around 1900. But by 1935 this name for the science that studies them was in place.
wacky, adj. Green’s Dictionary of Slang traces this one to Yorkshire dialect where the word means “fool, simpleton,” and Warwickshire dialect where it means “left-handed.” (The OED is less specific, only making an oblique cross-reference to the English Dialect Dictionary.) Green’s also dates the phrase in American slang to c. 1930, but the date of the citation is uncertain. The OED has a citation that is clearly from 1935. The U. S. slang adjective may also be influenced by the phrase out of whack, which dates to the 1880s and is a reference to hitting something to bring it back into alignment.
Wehrmacht, n. This word is literally “defense force” in German and was the official name of the German army from 1921–45. (The post-war Germany army is the Bundeswehr “federal defense.") The rearming and expansion of the German military in 1935 brought the word into English use.
Wimpy, n. The name of the chain of hamburger restaurants is inspired by the character J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye cartoon series, who is inordinately fond of hamburgers. The first Wimpy restaurant was opened in Chicago in 1934, and the U. S. trademark for the name was filed in 1935. In the 1950s, the name was licensed for a separate chain of restaurants based out of the U. K. If the U. S. chain still exists, it is moribund.
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. For each year, I try to select twenty-six words, one for each letter of the alphabet. But in some cases I’ve got more than one for a particular letter, in others none. 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.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton