1999 Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has 20 words with first citations from 1999. In that year, the Euro begins to be used as currency; the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 10,000 for the first time; the war in Kosovo ends with Serbian capitulation to NATO forces; the U. S. Senate acquits President Clinton in his impeachment trial; the trend of shootings at U. S. schools comes to Columbine High School in Colorado; Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France; the television series The Sopranos debuts on HBO; Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is released to the disappointment of millions of once-eager fans; and world population hits the six billion mark.

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The words of 1999:

Acela, n. In 1999 Amtrak launched its Acela high-speed rail service from Boston to Washington, D. C.

bling, n. The hip-hop term for ostentatious jewelry debuts.

blog, n. (and blog, v.; blogger, n.; and blogosphere, n.) The word blog, short for weblog, and its host of associated words make their appearance.

bricks and clicks, n. Another e-commerce term, this one refers to a company that combines online marketing and sales with more traditional channels.

chemtrail, n. A word from the wackaloon conspiracy theory front, this one denotes the chemical or biological agents allegedly released by aircraft and visible high in the sky. Chemtrail is modeled after 1945’s contrail, which is what those vapor clouds actually are.

doosra, n. This word is a cricket term for a type of off-spin delivery of the ball. The invention of the doosra is credited to Pakistani bowler Saqlain Mushtaq, but the name was given by his wicket-keeper Moin Khan, who would call for the pitch by uttering the Hindi and Punjabi dusra, “the second/other one.”

dot-bomb, n. The dotcom bubble wouldn’t burst until the next year, but by 1999 some dotcom companies were already becoming dot-bombs.

electronicore, n. Another -core term, this one for music with heavy electronic or synthesizer effects.

eternity leave, n. Modeled after maternity/paternity leave, this term denotes time off from work to care for a terminally ill relative.

e-waste, n. One side effect of the electronic revolution is tons of hazardous waste created by discarded equipment.

Google, v.2 The technology gods give, and the technology gods take away. While dotcoms were starting to fail, the next big thing was already becoming a verb.

mousetrap, v. This internet slang term refers to using a script that prevents a visitor from leaving a web site.

munter, n.2 The British slang term for an unattractive woman makes its debut. The origin is unknown.

stalkette, n. Stalkers are not always male.

staycation, n. One of many -cation words, a staycation refers to a vacation spent at home.

tomacco, n. The television show The Simpsons has coined many words, from cromulent to embiggen, but none quite like tomacco. A 1999 episode of the series featured Homer Simpson creating a genetic monstrosity by crossing a tomato with a tobacco plant. But by 2003, genetic engineers actually accomplished the questionable feat.

Trench Coat Mafia, n. The perpetrators of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado were widely reported by the news media to be members of a Goth clique known as the Trench Coat Mafia. In fact, they were not, just one of many such stunning errors the news media has continued to make in the reporting on the incident.

Wi-Fi, n. (and adj.) This term for any of a variety of wireless networking protocols doesn’t really stand for anything. The Wi- portion represents wireless, but the -Fi is simple reduplication and is meaningless, probably in imitation of Hi-Fi.

These words are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, based on that dictionary’s earliest citation for that word. I’ve also taken words from the Among the New Words column in the journal American Speech; and in many cases these words have been antedated by the OED.  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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