1943 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 288 words with first citations from 1943. In that year, linguists were talking about Tok Pisin and Wade-Giles; machos participated in lucha libre; Chindits, Hell’s Angels, and the Waffen S. S. fought it out across the globe; beanies and falsies could be taken to the laundromat; and Weimaraners could be debarked.

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Events of 1943:

  • January: Churchill and Roosevelt meet at Casablanca and issue a demand for “unconditional surrender” of the Axis powers; the Pentagon opens for business; the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins; the British capture Tripoli; Duke Ellington plays Carnegie Hall for the first time; botanist George Washington Carver, physicist Nikola Tesla, and writer Eric Knight, creator of Lassie, die.
  • February: The German Sixth Army surrenders at Stalingrad; the fighting on Guadalcanal ends; U. S. troops suffer their first major defeat at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.
  • March: Twenty-two ships of convoys HX 229 and SC 122 are sunk by U-boats, the largest “wolfpack” attack of the war; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! opens on Broadway; composer Sergei Rachmaninoff dies.
  • April: Radio Berlin announces the discovery of the graves from the Katyn Massacre; Albert Hofmann takes LSD for the first time; the U. S. closes down the Depression-era U. S. Federal Writers’ Project; Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is killed when his plane is shot down by U. S. Army pilots.
  • May: Six U-boats are sunk trying to attack convoy ONS 5, the last major wolfpack attack of the war; U. S. troops retake the Aleutian Islands from the Japanese; German and Italian forces in North Africa surrender; the Soviets dissolve the Comintern; the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ends.
  • June: Actor Leslie Howard is killed when his transport plane is shot down by the Luftwaffe.
  • July: The Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, takes place; Allied forces land in Sicily; Rome is bombed by the Allies for the first time; the bombing of Hamburg creates a firestorm, killing 43,000.
  • August: PT-109, commanded by Lt.(j.g.) John F. Kennedy, is rammed by a Japanese destroyer; 53 out of 178 B-24 bombers are lost trying to bomb the Ploiesti oil fields in Romania.
  • September: The Allies invade Italy; Italy surrenders; German paratroopers rescue Mussolini from prison.
  • October: The new government of Italy declares war on Germany.
  • November: Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic for the first time; U. S. Marines land at Tarawa and Makin Atolls in the Gilbert Islands; Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin meet in Tehran; the R. A. F. begins its sustained bombing campaign against Berlin; Broadway lyricist Lorenz Hart dies.
  • December: General Dwight Eisenhower is appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe; Marshal Josef Broz Tito declares the formation of a Yugoslavian government in exile; jazz pianist Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller and writer Beatrix Potter die.

The words of 1943:

acronym, n. The concept has been around for longer—but not nearly as long as many think—but the word acronym only dates from 1943.

aeromedicine, n. This word has two distinct senses. One relates to the transport of medical patients or personnel by air. In this sense, the adjective aeromedical can be dated to 1930, but the noun aeromedicine doesn’t appear until many decades later in 1987. The other sense, that of science of the health effects related to aviation and space travel, appears as the adjective aeromedical in 1937 and the noun aeromedicine in 1943.

beanie, n. The name for the small cap dates to this year.

cannibalize, v. This verb has nothing to do with grisly eating habits. It’s another war word, referring to the practice of taking parts from non-working aircraft or other equipment and using them to get other aircraft or equipment working.

changeup, n. The baseball pitch has its name by 1943. This was one where I was sure the OED could be antedated, but instead I found in this case the big, comprehensive dictionary has better info than the more specialized Dickson Baseball Dictionary, which only records changeup from 1948.

Chindit, n. This was the name Brigadier General Orde Wingate gave to the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade (later renamed the 3rd Indian Infantry Division). The special operations unit conducted long-range reconnaissance-in-force operations deep behind Japanese lines in Burma. The name comes from the Burmese chinthé, a mythological creature.

chino, n.2 The cotton twill cloth got this name in 1943. It’s from the Spanish for “toasted,” so called because of its usual khaki color.

choreograph, v. The noun choreography dates to the eighteenth century, but the verb is only from 1943.

Clovis, n. The Clovis culture is the oldest known human culture in the Americas, dating to about 13,000 years ago. (There are some older archeological finds, but these do not represent a distinct culture.) The first Clovis artifacts were discovered in the late 1930s and got their name in 1943 after the site near Clovis, New Mexico, where they were found.

D. D. T., n. The chemical compound dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane had been around since the 1870s, but its insecticidal properties were not discovered until 1939. Production ramped up due to the need to control malaria in the South Pacific war zone, and it 1943 the name of the chemical was abbreviated to D. D. T.

debark, v.3 No, this sense has nothing to do with amphibious operations. To debark a dog is to perform surgery to prevent it from yapping.

duck, n.4 This word is the popular name for an American amphibious vehicle which entered into military service in 1943. Built by General Motors, it carried the factor designation of DUKW. The D indicates that it had been designed in 1942; U means that it was a utility or transport vehicle; K stands for its front-wheel drive; and the W denotes the fact that it had two powered, rear axles. Given this designation and the fact that it was amphibious, soldiers naturally called it the duck. You can still occasionally see ducks on the road, usually owned by a company that conducts amphibious tours of a city.

duh, int. This interjection is probably older than 1943, but in that year a Merrie Melodies cartoon had a character saying, “Duh [...] Well, he can’t outsmart me, ‘cause I’m a moron.” The sense implying what was just said or is about to be said is obvious or foolish appears a few decades later.

eff, v. Like the preceding, this shortening of the familiar four-letter verb is probably much older, but the OED has it in print from 1943.

electroconvulsive, adj. This name for the psychiatric treatment popularly known as shock therapy appeared in the pages of the Lancet in 1943.

falsies, n. This name for a padded bra appears by 1943.

fly-in, n. Military slang for air delivery of troops or equipment.

gismo, n. Another word for a gadget or thingamajig; this one appears by 1943.

groupie, n. No, this is not a WWII camp follower. Groupie was R. A. F. slang for a group captain.

hell’s angel, n. No, not the motorcycle gang. Hell’s Angels was a nickname for the 303rd Bomb Group of the U. S. 8th Air Force stationed in Britain, taking the name from the B-17 in the group that was the first to complete twenty-five bombing missions over Germany. (The crew of the Memphis Belle of the 324th Bomb Squadron was the first crew to complete twenty-five missions, but not all those missions were flown on that plane.) The name Hell’s Angels is ultimately taken from the title of a 1930 film about World War I aviators.

jerrycan, n. A jerrycan or jerrican is a five-gallon container with a rather efficient design, easy to fill, transport, and dispense its contents. The design was originally German, hence the name jerry, and the British 8th Army captured some in North Africa and copied the design.

Laundromat, n. This proprietary name for a coin-operated washing machine was trademarked in 1943.

Loran, n. This name for a method of radio-navigation is an acronym for LOng-RAnge Naviation. Loran continued to be operated after the war, with the U. S. Coast Guard operating a global network of Loran transmitting stations. This U. S. network was finally shut down in 2010, no longer needed with the advent of GPS satellite navigation. Some other nations continue to operate similar radio-navigation systems.

lucha libre, n. This name for the Mexican style of freestyle professional wrestling, featuring wrestlers in masks, began to cross over the border in the early 1940s.

macho, n.2 and adj. From the Spanish for “man, masculine,” this is another import into English in this period.

microeconomics, n. This name for the branch of economics that addresses the behavior of individuals, products, and particular firms appears in 1943, although the adjective microeconomic was in place by 1941. Macroeconomics, which addresses national economies as a whole, appears by 1945.

Motor City, n. The nickname for Detroit is in place by 1943, although the OED records a 1910 use of “motor city” as a description of Detroit, rather than a nickname, and a 1919 business with the name Motor City Sales Co. So the nickname was certainly in oral use well before the 1943 appearance in print.

nucular, adj.2 This spelling variant of nuclear appears in 1943 to reflect the colloquial U. S. pronunciation of the word.

permafrost, n. This word for arctic soil that is frozen throughout the year was coined in 1943 by S. W. Muller in a report of an U. S. Army engineering survey.

recovery area, n. In 1943, a recovery area was a region where downed pilots could expect to be rescued. After the war, the term was applied in the space program, where it designated the area where a capsule would be brought down, and in medicine, where it referred to a ward where patients are taken following surgery.

rhubarb, v. (also rhubarbing, n.) This slang term, in use among pilots, means “to strafe.”

roadkill, n. (also roadkilled, adj.) Animals had been struck by cars for decades, but they finally got a name in 1943.

rumor control, n. Governments undertook serious efforts to quash the spread of unofficial information during the war. Of course, soldiers turned this around to mean “the source of rumors,” although that sense isn’t attested until 1968.

scapegoat, v. (also scapegoating, n.) The noun scapegoat goes back to Tyndale’s sixteenth-century translation of the Bible, but the verb doesn’t appear until 1943.

set aside, n. and adj. Government set-asides are common nowadays, where money is designated for a particular purpose, such as purchasing from small businesses. But in 1943 a set aside was a product, often agricultural, that was designated for government, especially military, use.

sitrep, n. This term is a military abbreviation of situation report. The longer form goes back to the 1914–18 war.

Telefax, n. Engineers have been inventing ways to send images over wires since the first half of the nineteenth century. This proprietary name for one such system emerged during the war.

Tok Pisin, n. The name for this language of Papua New Guinea came to the attention of lexicographers due to the fighting on that island in 1943.

Wade-Giles, n. The system for transliterating Mandarin into the Latin alphabet is based on a mid-nineteenth-century system started by linguist Thomas Wade and completed in 1892 by diplomat Herbert Giles. But the name for their system didn’t come into use until 1943.

Waffen S. S., n. The Schutzstaffeln or S. S., literally “defense forces,” were the Nazis’ internal security forces. The Waffen S. S., or “armed defense forces,” were elite combat troops. These troops had begun the war as a small security and ceremonial force, but by 1943, when the name took hold in English, they had grown to rival the regular Wehrmacht, or army, in size.

Weimaraner, n. The American Kennel Club recognized this breed in 1943.

X-Acto, n. The name for the razor-knife was trademarked in 1943.

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.

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