Magazine article Insight on the News

The Fifties: Hotbed of New Vocabulary. (for the People)

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Fifties: Hotbed of New Vocabulary. (for the People)

Article excerpt

The 1950s were a decade when (according to 1960s types) not much happened of any importance. That is stuff and nonsense. For one thing, it was a time when many words that since have become a key part of our vocabulary had their origins. If you seek proof just pause to take a look at David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf's America in So Many Words, which aptly is subtitled Words That Have Shaped America.

These seminal words sprang from a variety of cultural sources. But whatever their origins they show how powerfully American culture and society have influenced the English language, because in many instances these are words that have become current not only here, but worldwide.

In 1950, for example, "D.J.," short for disk jockey, made its appearance. "Disk jockey" had been around since the Aug. 6, 1941, issue of Variety. "But it was the abbreviation `D.J.,' also appearing as `d.j.' and `deejay,' that marked the growing importance of the disk jockey and of recorded popular music in the 1950s," note Barnhart and Metcalf, who conclude, "The D.J. had become an arbiter of popular taste."

The following year, 1951, was the first time "rock and roll" was used to describe the kind of music that soon would be everywhere. In 1952 the term "Ms.," a substitute for "Miss" and "Mrs.," made its advent, signaling the big changes in gender relations that would spread across America.

The noun "UFO," for unidentified flying object, came along in 1953 and "fast food" in 1954. …

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