Words in time

emoticonsIf there’s one sure-fire way to rile my kids, it’s to say “Is there an emoticon for that?”
“Mum!”, they’ll reply in exasperation, “It’s emoji, not emoticon.”

Actually, in 1990 it was emoticon (and there’s nothing wrong with being stuck in the nineties, right?). The little yellow face we are now so familiar with was not quite as expressive in 1990 as it is now but things were different then – jeggings weren’t a thing and nor was bling; it was a time when you simply had mates, not bromances; and weekends were spent playing at the park, as opposed to parkouring.

I recently came across the Oxford Dictionaries birthday-words generator (there’s a summary here). It’s fascinating to see how words reveal changes in cultural values and trends – ciao in 1929; blast-off in 1951; beat-box in 1988 and dad rock in 1994 – each provides a time-stamp for what was happening in the world at that particular time (although I’m trying not to think about what brought about the surge of dad-rockers – middle-age men giving up their Springsteen dreams, perhaps?).

Some words seem to have become part of the language much earlier than I would have imagined (back-to-nature in 1915; mobile phone in 1945), and others seem later (gasp in 1968; gobsmacked in 1985).

The evolution of language, exploring dictionaries and considering the origin of words is interesting stuff. The Oxford Dictionaries blog has dozens of brilliant articles that explore the nitty-gritty of English – well worth a look for curious kids.

So, according to the birthday list, our current senior school students are born in the age of podcasts, crowd-sourcing, photo-bombing and retweeting. I wonder what birthday-words our preps will have? Just as long as it’s not versing πŸ˜‰

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