1988 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 137 words with first citations from 1988. In that year, you could microchip someone with a product made by a mid-cap, fabless semiconductor company; pimped-out, gangsta wiggers dropped the F-bomb; acid jazz and techno were on the music charts; Hamas had many people afraid of rising Islamofascism; and one could use one’s gaydar to find out if that himbo was a potential partner.

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Events of 1988:

  • January: Basketball player Pete Maravich, U.S. Marine WWII fighter ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, and physicist/spy Klaus Fuchs die.
  • February: Physicist Richard Feynman dies.
  • March: Iraq uses chemical weapons against Kurds living in the Iraqi town of Halabja; White House aides Lt. Col. Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted for their roles in the Iran-Contra scandal; Stooge Joe Besser, singer Andy Gibb, and porn star John Holmes die.
  • April: Former pop star Sonny Bono is elected mayor of Palm Springs, California; Canadian Celine Dion wins the Eurovision song contest for Switzerland.
  • May: The Soviet Union begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; writer Robert Heinlein and spy Kim Philby die.
  • June: Wildfires begin in Yellowstone National Park that will eventually consume more than a third of the park’s acreage; writer Louis L’Amour dies.
  • July: Medical waste dumped from New York City washes ashore on Long Island and New Jersey; stage and film director Joshua Logan dies.
  • August: The Iran-Iraq War ended after eight years some million people dead; 75 die and 346 are injured at an air show at the U. S. airbase at Ramstein, West Germany when three Italian jets collide, sending one crashing into a crowd of spectators; automaker Enzo Ferrari and Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq die.
  • September: 300,000 demonstrate in Estonia for independence from the Soviet Union; NASA resumes space shuttle flights after the 1986 Challenger disaster; cartoonist Charles Addams dies.
  • October: The United States decides to tear down the new, but bug-ridden, embassy in Moscow.
  • November: Vice President George H. W. Bush defeats Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the U. S. presidential election; Benazir Bhutto is elected to her first term as prime minister of Pakistan; the cult-comedy Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuts on Minnesota television.
  • December: Pan Am Flight 103 is blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland by Libyans; musician Roy Orbison dies.

The words of 1988:

1992, n. 1992, or technically 1 January 1993, was the date the single economic market would go into effect in Europe, so 1992 became a buzzword.

acid jazz, n. The name of the musical style which combines jazz, funk, soul, and rap, started as a play on the name of the acid house style.

biohacker, n. A biohacker is someone who manipulates genetic material without regard to ethics or legalities.

blunt, n.2 With a name modeled after the Phillies Blunt brand of cheap cigars, this blunt is a cigar wrapper emptied of tobacco and filled with marijuana.

CE, n.2The CE mark, an abbreviation for Conformité Européenne, is used to mark products that conform to European Union regulations.

co-branding, n. Co-branding is the practice of marketing a product associated with two brand names, such as a credit card which carries the name of the credit card company, like Visa, and the bank which supplies the credit. The adjective co-branded is older, dating to 1982.

e-book, n. The 1988 citation that uses this term is speculative, discussing technologies to come.

fabless, adj. A fabless company isn’t necessarily dull or lacking in style. It’s one that designs and sells products, usually microchips, but contracts out the manufacturing, or fabrication.

F-bomb, n. The euphemism for fuck, or one of its nearly infinite incarnations, is dropped for the first time.

gangsta, n. and adj. The alteration of gangster starts appearing in rap lyrics.

gaydar, n. The purported ability to identify fellow homosexuals is cited in the OED from 1988, but Green’s Dictionary of Slang has a citation from 1982. The word is, of course, a playful adaptation of radar.

Hamas, n. The militant Islamic organization was founded in 1987 and came to the attention of Western journalists the following year. The name is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya or Islamic Resistance Movement. In Arabic, hamas means “bravery, zealotry, resistance.”

himbo, n. The male counterpart to bimbo makes his appearance.

Islamofascism, n. This word was floating around long before 9-11 made it popular.

JPEG, n. In 1988 the Joint Photographic Experts Group created this standard for digitally encoding photographs.

Kuiper belt, n. This region of trans-Neptunian space is home to small, icy bodies like Pluto and Eris. It is named for astronomer Gerard Kuiper who suggested in 1951 that the region was the source for short-period comets.

Manolo Blahnik, n. The Spanish designer trademarked his style of shoes in 1988.

microchip, v. The verb meaning “to implant a microchip” makes its debut, although the adjective microchipped goes back to 1979.

mid-cap, n. The cap in this term refers to capitalization, and mid-cap refers to a mid-sized public company.

mommy track, n. The mommy track is the path of limited career growth available to women with children.

no-fly, adj. Chiefly found in no-fly zone, this adjective designates a region over which aircraft are forbidden to fly.

pimped-out, adj. The adjective meaning modified or outfitted in a flashy style rolls out.

road rage, n. This term is probably modeled on roid rage, a 1987 term for aggression due to steroid use. In this case, it’s traffic, not pharmaceuticals that is the culprit.

techno, n. and adj. The style of electronic dance music gets its rather unimaginative name.

three-peat, n. This noun denoting a third consecutive championship was first applied to the Los Angeles Lakers.

wigger, n. This derogatory term refers to a white person, usually a youth, who adopts aspects of African-American, hip-hop culture.

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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