1993 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 99 words with first citations from 1993. In that year, Islamic terrorists bomb the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring over a thousand; the Chemical Weapons Convention is signed, outlawing those weapons worldwide; E. Annie Proulx’s book The Shipping News is published; director Stephen Spielberg has two of the four top-grossing films of the year, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List; mathematician Andrew Wiles publishes his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem; astronauts conduct a repair mission to correct the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope; and Intel ships the first Pentium microprocessors.

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The words of 1993:

been there, done that, c. phr. This catchphrase started to become widely used in North American speech around 1993, but it’s at least a decade older. Been there, done that is believed to have originated in Australia, and the first appearance in print down under is from 1983. But the first known use of the phrase in print is actually in a Syracuse, New York newspaper, which quotes actor Lauren Tewes as using the “Australian expression.” Ms. Tewes, star of The Love Boat, is American, however.

Blairite, n. 1992 saw a host of Clinton terms, and in 1993 Tony Blair, whose political star was rising, started giving his name to words as well. Blairite appears this year, and Blairism and Blairist in 1994, the year he took over leadership of the Labour Party.

cancelbot, n. A cancelbot is a program that searches for and deletes postings that meet specific criteria from internet and Usenet discussion groups.

cannabis club, n. A cannabis club is an organization that produces and distributes medicinal marijuana to its members. It wouldn’t be until 1996 that the state of California made such cannabis clubs legal under state law, although they remain illegal under federal statute.

car boot sale, n. The Among the New Words column has this British term from 1993, but the OED has a citation from 1985. A car boot sale is a form of flea market, where people gather to sell unwanted possessions and other things from the trunks of their cars.

casual Friday, n. In the 1990s many firms and offices began to relax their dress codes, allowing informal attire one day of the week.

Clipper, n.3 The Clipper Chip was a microchip included in electronic devices that used encryption that would allow the U. S. government to decode the communications. The stated intent was to allow law enforcement authorities access to criminal conversations. The idea met stiff opposition, and the Clipper Chip was defunct by 1996.

cosplay, n. Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from anime, manga, or other form of entertainment. The word sounds like it comes from a blend of costume play, and in a way it does, but it immediate source is the Japanese kosupure, which is a blend of kosuchumu-pure, which in turn is from the English costume play. Kosupure appears in Japanese by 1982.

cybershop, v. This verb, meaning “to purchase goods or services over the internet,” makes an appearance. Cf. e-commerce.

DVD, n. The digital video disc would not hit the market until 1995, but engineers and those following the home entertainment market were abuzz about it a few years earlier. The initialism was subsequently reinterpreted as digital versatile disc to emphasize that it had applications other than video.

e-commerce, n. Unsurprisingly, this term first appears in California’s San Jose Mercury News, the paper of record for Silicon Valley. Cf. cybershop.

e-money, n. Various schemes for creating some type of electronic currency have been proposed since 1993, but none have beaten the simplicity of a credit card.

false memory syndrome, n. Psychologists have been talking about false memories since the nineteenth century, but it wasn’t until the 1990s and the allegations of child sexual abuse stemming from “recovered” (i. e., implanted) memories that it started to be classified as a disease.

fashionista, n. The -ista suffix comes from Spanish words like Sandinista. In this case, the term applies to the elites or purchasers of high fashion.

fen-phen, n. The diet drug is a combination of fenfluramine and phentermine went on the market in the early 1990s. By 1996, studies were showing that its use correlated with cardiac problems.

fire crotch, n. This disparaging name for a person, usually a woman, with red hair begins to make the rounds in 1993. It is a reference to the color of pubic hair.

First Dude, n. This jocular term for the husband of a female president or governor comes into use.

food porn, n. In the 1990s the word porn begins to be used to refer to anything that appeals to any physical or excessive desire, not just sex. One such manifestation is food porn, or television programming or other media that use food and cooking as entertainment.

gentleman’s club, n. This term for an upscale strip joint makes its appearance in 1993.

horndog, n. The Among the New Words column includes this word for a sexually aggressive man with a citation from 1993, although the Historical Dictionary of American Slang (published later) antedates horndog to 1984.

internet TV, n. In 1993 this term referred to a television used to browse the web, not one that received video signals via the internet.

limoncello, n. The Italian liqueur makes its way into the English lexicon.

MP3, n. The MPEG audio standard is released this year.

Pog, n. The fad for Pogs swept the United States in the mid-1990s, starting in Hawaii. The original Pogs were decorated discs found in the caps of bottles of Pog juice, produced by a Maui dairy and which children would collect and trade. Pog is an acronym for passion-fruit, orange, guava. As the fad spread, Pogs produced specifically for collecting and trading became commercially available.

remailer, n. More fully anonymous remailer, this is a computer server that receives and forwards an email message, hiding the identity of the source in the process.

scooby, n. A scooby is “an awareness of one’s situation” and is chiefly found in the phrase to not have a scooby. The synonymous to not have a clue dates to at least 1924. Scooby is a reference to the cartoon ghost-hunting dog, Scooby Doo. I include the 1993 citation from the OED here because it is one of the gems you often find when perusing that dictionary. From the Glasgow Herald of 14 May: “Your lawyer telling youse that he husnae a scooby and youse can jist take a wee tirravie tae yersel.” A tirravie is either a “tantrum” or an “odd notion or fancy.”

soccer mom, n. Okay, this one doesn’t really belong in 1993, but the Among the New Words column has a first citation for it from that year. Soccer moms, or the mothers that spent their days shuttling their children to activities like soccer, were the icon for the suburban demographic in the 1996 U. S. presidential election and were all over the news that year. But the OED antedates the term to 1973.

table dance, n. Here’s another that the Among The New Words cites from 1993, but which the OED has subsequently antedated, in this case all the way back to 1912. A table dance is an erotic dance by a performer, usually a woman, who stands on a table. The more intimate lap dance goes back to 1986.

uptalk, v. (also uptalk, n.) To uptalk is to speak with a rising intonation in the voice, a pattern that is often exhibited by North American women. For some reason journalists grabbed hold of the concept in 1993 and ran with it, although linguists had been talking about uptalk for some years prior, noting that its use can help facilitate conversation.

V-chip, n. The V here is for “violence.” The V-chip is a microprocessor found in television sets that can scramble the signal of programs coded for violence, sex, offensive language, or anything else a parent might deem inappropriate for children. The inclusion of the V-chip in home electronics devices was a major political football of the 1990s.

virtual pet, n. A virtual pet is an electronic toy that requires the human owner to “care” for it as if it were a real pet, “feeding” it and “cleaning up” after it. The term virtual pet appears in 1993, while the more famous brand names Tamagotchi and Giga Pet debut in 1997.

water-cooler television, n. In the 1990s water-cooler television shows like Seinfeld and ER became required viewing for many because they would inevitably be discussed in the workplace the following day.

web site, n. Not much needs to be said about this one, other than that it is now typically written as one word, website.

weblog, n. The 1993 use of this word is not the one most of us are familiar with today. In 1993 a weblog was the file of requests handled and errors generated by a web server. It’s not until 1997 that weblog starts to be used in its current sense of “an online journal,” and then only in a URL. This sense of the word starts being used in normal English in 1998.

webmaster, n. With all those web sites and weblogs proliferating, someone was needed to administer them.

year 2000, n. People were starting to talk about the problems that would be encountered by computers and legacy software systems when year 99 rolled over into year 00 seven years hence, and year 2000 began to denote not only the year, but that host of anticipated problems as well.

zone out, v. Another Among the New Words entry that the OED antedates, this time to 1982. To zone out is to mentally detach oneself from what is happening around one.

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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