Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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When did that word appear in print?

Here’s a “time traveler’s post” from Merriam-Webster.

Some of these words have either since disappeared — without my ever noticing them — or are not in widespread use in the circles I frequent. I mean, what is “abandonware”? That term appeared in 2000, apparently. I kind of like the sound of it. It must be a computer term. I don’t remember ever hearing it, but I’m not into computers, so I wouldn’t have, necessarily.

Let me see, what words were introduced in 1990? Ah, nutriceutical! There’s one that’s become pretty common since that time. Also crytocurrency and malware and a bunch of others.

I question “archaea.” The three-domain taxonomic system was introduced, as I’m sure you all know, by Carl Woese in 1977. He defined the domains of Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archaea. Woese received the Leewenhoek Medal, given once every ten years, for his work in defining the Archaea domain and for his work on “horizontal” transmission of genetic information between organisms. Very famous guy in some circles, and some of us have been using Archaea as a taxonomic term since at least that time.

So I’m guessing this Merriam-Webster thing must refer to the first time a term is used in print … what, in the popular press, maybe? Except that’s not what the Time Traveler post says. Well, then, I don’t know, this entry is just mysterious to me. I think they must mean to exclude scientific use, or this simply makes no sense.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the words it says were introduced fifty years ago … oh, big list … let’s see … tough love, squeaky clean, pulsar — pulsar, really? — noninvasive, nonconfrontational — that one gets a red line under it, so WordPress doesn’t think it’s a real word even fifty years on. Oh, I see Goggle mostly thinks it should be hyphenated. Crytozoology, there’s a good one. Consciousness-raising, hmm, yes, 1968 seems like a likely year for that one to appear.

Well, it’s interesting. Take a look. If you immediately find an obvious explanation why this list thinks Archaea wasn’t used until 1990, let me know, because I’m stumped.

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3 Comments When did that word appear in print?

  1. Pete Mack

    There must have been a Scientific American article about Archaea then, or something. A quick web search shows that even the OED did not add the word until Sept. 2002:
    https://public.oed.com/updates/new-words-list-september-2002/

    Unfortunately, I don’t have access, so I can’t say what their reference is. That said, they will almost certainly include the first technical use as well as the first popular use.

  2. Rachel

    Thanks, Pete! That makes sense! I knew Archaebacteria was the original term, but I forgot about that.

    Etymology recapitulating phylogeny, ha!

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