The New Word That Debuted the Year You Were Born

Were you here at the dawn of the "frenemy?" The answer may surprise you.

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Language is always evolving to reflect the technology, new culinary delights, and trends of the era. That's why the dictionary is never really "done." We took a look back at Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary for a sampling of words that debuted each year, and we found a few surprises. ("Text messaging" is way older than you think.) Take a peek at when other words found their way into our language.

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John Kobal Foundation
1926: Facelift

Though the process has become much more advanced since its debut, the facelift has been helping people deal with the aging process for 90+ years.

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Archive Photos
1927: Perm

Nope, the year of the perm didn't happen during the '80s. In 1927, this rather frightening gizmo allowed everyone to achieve their dream of a head full of curls.

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1928: Fat Cat

The boom of the '20s was coming to an end, but not before a phrase was coined to refer to the rich industrial types who gained the most.

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Buyenlarge
1929: Spacecraft

Space travel has always caught the imagination of dreamers, even decades before we'd actually make it up there.

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JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado
1930: Pass-Fail

The grade-that's-not-a-grade might have calmed some college jitters when it first came around.

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Bettmann
1931: Platinum Blonde

Perhaps inspired by the most famous platinum blonde of all, determined women sought to replicate this gleaming shade. (And they haven't stopped since.)

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Juan Lin / EyeEm
1932: Gelato

Though it existed before it entered the OED, we're glad we have the right word to order this delicious treat.

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Bettmann
1933: VIP

The shorthand for "Very Important Person" made the work of gossip columnists of the era much easier. 

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Bettmann
1934: Headstand

It's an exercise that's been around forever, but the '30s brought a trend of doing these difficult poses. Even actress Elsie de Wolfe could be caught such an inversion.

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H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile
1935: Muzak

This new genre would eventually fill our supermarkets, drug stores, elevators, and dentist offices with the oddly soothing-but-annoying tunes. 

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Jack O'Connell/The Boston Globe
1936: Double-Park

As cars became more popular, we started quickly running out of places to park. Enter: Double-parking. 

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Harrison /Topical Press Agenc
1937: Doodle

It's what you do mindlessly while you wait on hold (perhaps listening to muzak?), and often the one action that can keep you from falling asleep in the process.

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Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection
1938: Private Eye

Pulp novels likely brought about this term, which would give rise to a whole genre of movies.

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Bettmann
1939: Celebutante

Nope, this wasn't coined during the heyday of Paris Hilton, but back in the late '30s, when beautiful society types began filling the pages of magazines and gossip columns.

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Bettmann
1940: Freeloader

We wouldn't call these happy barbecue guests "freeloaders," unless they started overstaying their welcome by a few days.

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SSPL
1941: Radar

The new boom in technology lead to a host of new words entering the lexicon, including radar.

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Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Images Collection
1942: Maître d'

This French term made its way into our language thanks to the rise of fine dining. 

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PhotoQuest
1943: Falsies

Whether you're enhancing your eyelashes or certain parts of your figure, it's nice to have this fun term in our vocabulary.

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Duane Howell/The Denver Post
1944: Mudflap

Though it would be some time before they became as graphically interesting as this '70s design (not to mention the cliché lady figure), this truck part helped keep vehicles a little bit cleaner.

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Kurt Hutton/Picture Post
1945: Espresso

Like gelato, espresso has existed for quite some time, but didn't become common enough to enter Merriam-Webster or the OED until this year. However, misspellings threaten to morph this word into "expresso." 

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Bettmann
1946: Binge Drinker

We're not saying this spirited bartender is one, but that line-up of beer could possibly be for him. 

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Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis
1947: Bikini

First, it was freeing to bare a little more, especially compared to the highly structured swimsuits of the time period. But later, the bikini seemed a little less carefree as the whole "bikini body" industry popped up.

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Bill Boch
1948: Linguine

Another food that existed long before it jumped into the dictionary, this pasta helped convert more and more people to Italian cooking.

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Keystone
1949: Jet Set

Whether it was A-list celebrities or socialites, the jet-setters were fascinating to watch in an era where traveling was much more difficult and time-consuming.

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Mathew Zucker
1950: Styrofoam

It helped keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, but the invention presented a challenge to the environment to say the least. 

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Hulton Archive
1951: Fast Food

Touting fun, budget-friendly meals, fast food gave busy families a reprieve from kitchen duty. Like the bikini, it's something that would seem less carefree as time went on, but for a brief moment it was an innocent treat.

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Albert L. Ortega
1952: Droid

It would be years before you'd see droids like R2D2 and BB-8, along with the "droid" smart phone, this technical phrase was in the dictionary in 1952.

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Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archive
1953: Frenemy

We were kind of surprised how old this word was, but isn't it one of language's most perfect inventions?

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1954: Cha-Cha

Social dancing got a little more interesting in the '50s, with fun-sounding styles such as this one. In the '60s, we'd all but abandon this more organized approach to dancing. 

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SSPL
1955: Artificial Intelligence

Advances in the computer industry lead to the invention of "artificial intelligence," which promised an optimistic new era.

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