These Words Have Actually Been Around for Years
Dictionary.com offers eight words that are older than you think:
The first citation of OMG in the Oxford English Dictionary appears in a 1917 letter from the British admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher to Winston Churchill.He writes, “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis–O.M.G. (Oh!My God!)–Shower it on the Admiralty!!” The fact that Fisher, who was 76 atthe time, defines OMG in his letter suggests that he thought Churchill might be unfamiliar with the term.
Dudes, believe it or not, have been around since 1883. An 1883 article from the New-York Mirror describes dudes, or doods, as “tight-trousered, brief-coated, eye-glassed, fancy-vested, sharp-toes shod” fops of New York City. To dude up means to dress in one fanciest, best, or most stylish clothes, and has been used since the late 1800s. The term dude ranch came to English just before 1920 and refers to a ranch operated primarily as a vacation resort. This evokes the image of a city dandy trying to experience rural life for novelty’s sake. Back in the 1883, the female counterpart of the dude was known as the dudine, however, over time dude has come to apply to most any person, both male and female, perhaps most famously to the character of “the Dude” in The Big Lebowski.
Though the term of endearment hubby might sound relatively new, it’s been around since the 1680s, at least. The earliest recorded citation appears in Edward Ravenscroft’s play The London Cuckolds. The term wifey, sometimes spelled wifie, is also older than you might suspect. It dates to the late 1700s and appears in the poetry of Robert Burns.
The acronym LOL existed long before chatrooms and text messaging. In the 1960s this initialism emerged in the US meaning “little old lady.” The internet sense, which dates back to the late ’80s, has no connection to petite elderly women. When people first evoked the “laugh out loud” sense of LOL, they likely were laughing, if not out loud, then silently. However, over the last several years LOL has evolved. Now it can be used as a marker of empathy, even when nothing guffaw-worthy has occurred.
Little Black Dress
While the little black dress, also known as the LBD, might seem like a concept concocted by female television characters of the 1990s, little black dress and little black frock date back to the 1800s. An early appearance of a simple black dress in a classic style appropriate to wear to a wide range of social functions is from Henry James’s 1881 The Portrait of a Lady. Referring to the character Pansy, he writes: “She wears a little black dress; she looks so charming.”
The term trick out meaning “to heavily accessorize,” is another word that might seem very hip and new, but is, in fact, much older than it seems. The verb trick has been paired with the prepositions up, off, and out as early as the 1500s to refer to something that is embellished for the distinct purpose of attracting attention.
While the term punk surged in the 1970s, it first surfaced in English in the late 1500s. Upon first entering the language punk referred to a lady of the night, though this sense, along with other vulgar senses, has since fallen out of use. By the turn of the 20th century punk could refer to a worthless person. In the 1920s, punk referred to an amateur or inexperienced youth, which ultimately led to the handmade, do-it-yourself sensibilities celebrated in the punk rock movement.
People have been unfriending others long before the rise of social networks. The earliest known citation of the verb unfriend comes from the mid-1600s. The noun unfriend is even older; it entered English in the 13th century to refer to an enemy. Let’s bring back the nominative form — next time you discuss your archenemies, try calling them your “unfriends” instead.