1965 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 368 words with first citations from 1965. In that year, you could get a log-in to a computer system and have access to a whole megabyte of memory; at-risk addicts were ODing in needle park; late-night reruns of old movies on television gave birth to gaslighting and Godzilla; students could learn all about free-fire zones and de-escalation at teach-ins; and zombiefied globetrotters suffered from jet lag.

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Events of 1965:

  • January: U. S. President Lyndon Johnson outlines his plans for his “Great Society;” writer T. S. Eliot and politician Winston Churchill die.
  • February: Canada introduces its new red and white maple leaf flag; Malcolm X is assassinated.
  • March: The Sound of Music debuts on Broadway; police beat peaceful civil rights marchers walking from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma; the first U. S. combat troops deploy to Vietnam; cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov becomes the first person to walk in space; Nicolae Ceaucescu takes power in Romania.
  • April: The Houston Astrodome opens its doors; the Students for a Democratic Society hold their first anti-Vietnam War march in Washington, drawing 25,000 protesters; journalist Edward R. Murrow dies.
  • May: At the University of California Berkeley, forty men burn their draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War.
  • July: President Johnson orders the number of U. S. troops in Vietnam raised to 125,000 and two days later signs the Social Security Act of 1965 into law, establishing the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
  • August: The U. K. bans cigarette advertising on television; President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law; Singapore becomes independent of Malaysia; race riots occur in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, triggered by police use of force to arrest an African-American man for drunk driving; The Beatles play at Shea Stadium; the Second Kashmir War between India and Pakistan begins.
  • September: Chicago Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley allows only one unearned run in a game, but still loses to Los Angeles Dodger Sandy Koufax who pitches a perfect game; physician and missionary Albert Schweitzer dies.
  • November: Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) achieves independence from Britain; the Pillsbury Doughboy debuts; The Man of La Mancha opens on Broadway; the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam takes place, the first major engagement between U. S. and North Vietnamese troops.
  • December: The Second Vatican Council concludes; A Charlie Brown Christmas debuts on CBS-TV; David Lean’s film Doctor Zhivago is released; writer W. Somerset Maugham dies.

The words of 1965:

à gogo, adj. I long thought that that this word’s origin had something to do with go-go dancing, but that’s only partly true. When I lived in Berkeley, there was (and as far as I know still is) a restaurant called Crepes à Gogo. The French term à gogo means “in abundance,” and the OED traces its use in English back to 1965, the year after the Whisky a Go Go disco opened in Hollywood (an earlier one had opened in Chicago in 1958). That’s where the go-go dancers come in.

at-risk, adj. When sex-advice columnist Dan Savage records his weekly podcast, he is assisted in the recording studio by “tech-savvy, at-risk youth.” The adjective at-risk dates to 1965.

bachelorette, n. In an entry that dates to the 1989 second edition, the OED says bachelorette is “orig. and chiefly Canad.” Now, the word may have been originated here—the 1965 citation in the dictionary is from Toronto and refers to “the delights open to the ‘bachelorette’ who has left her family and is in no hurry to get married"—but it certainly is no longer “chiefly Canadian.”

bada-bing, int. This interjection arose in the Italian-American community. The 1965 citation of bada-bing in the OED is from a recording of a comedy routine about an Italian-American wedding. The use of Bada-Bing as the name of Tony Soprano’s strip club in the HBO series The Sopranos was undoubtedly inspired by a line from the 1972 film The Godfather, “you’ve gotta get up close like this and bada-bing! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit.”

biohazard, n. Sometime scientific progress comes with some drawbacks.

Carnaby Street, n. Clothing sellers along Carnaby Street in central London began to market to the youth in the mid-1960s, and the name of the street became synonymous with mod 60s’ fashion. This citation in The Guardian from 1966 says it all, “discothèque-crazed tele personalities jerking in Carnaby plumage.”

chartbuster, n. With the Beatles performing at Shea Stadium, popular music entered a new era where groups competed to release the latest chartbuster.

Chomskyan | Chomskian, adj. and n. Noam Chomsky’s ideas of transformational grammar where transforming the rarefied world of linguistics to the point where he rated his own adjective.

clusterfuck, n. In 1965, clusterfuck was a pornography-industry term for an orgy, but it was quickly picked up by soldiers in Vietnam where the word came to mean “a botched, chaotic situation.”

de-escalation, n. (also re-escalation, n. and re-escalate, v.) While soldiers in Vietnam were discovering how chaotic war could be, Herman Kahn was writing On Escalation, a book that put forward ideas on how nuclear war, or more precisely the threat of nuclear war, could be effectively used to further national policy. Kahn used the term de-escalation in his book, although the verb to de-escalate is recorded in 1964.

Eurocentrism, n. In the 1960s Western intellectuals began to recognize how their views of the world were distorted by their own cultural biases and coined the term Eurocentrism to describe that skewed outlook, although an older form, Europocentrism, dates to 1956.

free-fire, adj. This is another military jargon term that broke into the wider consciousness as a result of the Vietnam War. If you’ve never served in the military, you probably don’t realize that military planners, in order to reduce the possibility of friendly or civilian casualties, scrupulously divide the combat area into zones where only one unit can fire on a target without prior permission. In a free-fire zone any unit is authorized to open fire on anything. Needless to say, being in the middle of a free-fire zone is a bad thing.

gaslighting, n.2 George Cukor’s film Gaslight, about a husband who makes his wife doubt her own sanity, came out in 1944, but it took over twenty years for the title to become a term for such psychological manipulation.

Godzilla, n. Gojira, who is known as Godzilla in the Western world and who first destroyed Tokyo in 1954, made his way into the English lexicon about ten years faster than gaslighting. Godzilla began to be used as a word for the largest or strongest of a thing’s type. The OED cites the New York Times from 1965, “The institutional investor, that Godzilla of the financial world.”

grody, adj. Slang words like this are notoriously difficult to etymologize. But the origin of grody is readily seen in its earliest spelling of groaty. The word comes from grotesque. Over time the word morphed into grotty and groady, eventually settling on the current spelling. Green’s Dictionary of Slang contains a 1961 citation of grody meaning “a conservative person, a square.” This is probably a different word.

grunge, n. (and grungy, adj.) Long before Kurt Cobain, a grunge was a dull or boring person and grungy described something unpleasant, sticky, or unkempt. Those terms are preceded by gungy, which dates to 1962. Surprisingly, grunge began to be applied to the style of music in the early 1970s, two decades before the grunge-rock bands of Seattle, like Cobain’s Nirvana, stormed to the top of the charts.

gyoza, n. The name of the Japanese dumpling starts being recorded in English-language publications.

hypertext, n. In 1965 Arpanet, the predecessor to the internet, was barely an idea, much less in existence, but computer scientists were already talking about hypertext.

jet lag, n. As long-distance jet travel became more common, so did this now all-too-familiar malady.

keiretsu, n. Keiretsu is another term from 1965 that didn’t blossom until the 1990s, when the study of Japanese business practices became a fad in U. S. business schools. Its literal meaning in Japanese is “chain, association, series,” but keiretsu is used to refer to a vertical trust, an industrial organization where a parent company owns, partly owns, or is closely associated with its suppliers and distributors.

log-in, n. Another computing term sees the light of day, although the verb to log in is recorded two years earlier.

maricon, n. The epithet for a gay man makes its way into American English from Spanish. [Languagehat antedates this to 1962.]

megabyte, n. And yet another computing term.

moby, adj. This slang adjective meaning “enormous, great” is taken from, of course, Moby Dick.

Motown, adj. and n. Berry Gordy founded the Motown Record Corporation of Detroit, Michigan in 1959. The name is a variation on Motor City, a term used for Detroit since 1919. By 1965 the name of the record label was being applied to the distinctive style of music it produced. Motown artists include The Miracles, The Marvelettes, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye.

naked ape, n. This term for a human being, which emphasizes humanity’s evolutionary connection to our closest cousins, illustrates how terms circulate orally prior to appearing in print. Naked ape makes its appearance in a published work in 1965. The Naked Ape is also the title of Desmond Morris’s 1967 book. But Morris claims to have coined the term in 1960 and he uses mentions the title of his forthcoming book in a 1962 letter, so it had some circulation among Britain’s anthropologists prior to its appearance in print.

needle park, n. Writer James Mills is the first to record this drug user’s slang term for a public area where addicts can shoot up. Mills uses needle park in a 1965 Life magazine article and would go on to pen the 1966 novel The Panic in Needle Park.

Neorican, n. and adj. A Neorican is a native of Puerto Rico living in the United States. The word comes from the Puerto Rican Spanish word, coined in 1964, neorriqueño, which in turn is a blend of neoyorquino, “New Yorker,” and puertorriqueño, “Puerto Rican.” In 1974 the term Newyorican appears, referencing ethnic Puerto Ricans who live in New York.

no-host, adj. The adjective denoting a party or meal where the guests pay for their own food and drink makes its appearance.

OD, v. The clipping of to overdose appears.

Reaganite, n. and adj. In 1965 Ronald Reagan begins his move from Hollywood into politics, and he is elected governor of California the following year. Also in 1966, the term Reaganism appears.

Shake ‘n Bake, n. and adj. General Foods introduced its Shake n’ Bake mix of seasoning for chicken in 1965. By 1981 the name had taken on the extended sense of anything that was easy and quick to do, usually with, at best, mediocre results.

stagflation, n. The blend of stagnation and inflation was coined by British politician Iain Macleod in 1965.

teach-in, n. The year also saw the first teach-ins, university protests organized around speeches and lectures on the Vietnam War.

telephone bank, n. Telemarketers get a new term.

Zamboni, n. Frank J. Zamboni & Company registered this name for its ice resurfacing machines in 1965.

zine, n. This is a clipping of the 1949 term fanzine. [The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction has this one from 1944.]

zombiefied, adj. This adjective presages the birth of the modern zombie film and phenomenon, which would occur with George Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. The 1965 citation is from Esquire magazine and is a reference to badly lit photographs that make the subject look dead. The verb to zombify, meaning to literally turn someone into a zombie, dates to 1950.

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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