Merriam Webster Time Traveler: Merriam-Webster is offering us all a new way to gauge how much we’ve aged with its “Time Traveler” engine on their website. Simply plug in your birth year, and they’ll display all words first used in print that year. It should be noted that this “First Known Use Date” doesn’t take into account how long a word had already become part of everyday speech; rather, it relies on when it was first published in an editorial story, journal article or similar piece of writing.
Dictionary word entries include notes identifying their origins; many of our words date back to either Old English or Middle English periods, but now reside within Modern English which dates back to 1500. Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s incredible time traveling engine, we can pinpoint precisely the evolution of language year over year.
It’s fascinating to look back in time and see the words that were common when you were born, such as “bestie” from 1991. At the turn of the 20th century, words like “tote bag,” “never-never land,” and “milk chocolate” entered our lexicon; by 1950 we added words like “Big Brotherism,” “mug shot,” and “multimedia.” More recent years have had far fewer entries; in 2015 we only added “aquafaba,” the liquid created when beans are cooked in water.
Their portal dates back to the 13th century and before, so you can explore a wealth of historic entries.
Merriam-Webster’s latest tool has captured the internet’s attention, with people eager to share their own birth year word discoveries. Language shapes how we view the world; therefore, it’s worth taking note of how our perspectives were shaped by the verbal era in which we lived.