I find etymology quite interesting, so I’m looking forward to Balderdash & Piffle on BBC Two tonight.
They have a list of words that the OED want to find more printed evidence of. Although I suppose the whole point of this list is that it is surprising, I still can’t believe how new a lot of these words and phrases are.
I’m surprised, for instance, that ‘bouncy castle’ wasn’t used until 1986 — the OED’s entry contains an extract from a 1997 Daily Telegraph. I can assure you, I jumped on a bouncy castle long before then. ‘Bog standard’ hasn’t been found being used before 1983. Imagine all the people that know that term, and it’s little more than 20 years old! The earliest evidence of ‘porkyâ€™ is from 1985 — how can that be?
‘Handbagsâ€™ dates back only to 1987! I thought it must have been a really old term, because I couldn’t imagine how its origin could have been recent. I thought it was a reference to some old film or something. ‘Mintedâ€™ has only been traced back to 1995, and Scottish newspapers as well! I had always thought of the word as a slang term from southern England.
I guess that language can evolve extraoridinarily quickly. Look at how widespread ‘chav’ has become in the past couple of years. The term ‘full montyâ€™ certainly took on a life of its own soon after the film’s release.
It is also amazing that, in a world where, thanks to the internet and suchlike, people are supposedly communicating more and more to people in far-flung places, there is still a wide amount of local variation — and you don’t always realise it.
When I heard them originally talk about this programme on the radio a good few months back, they said that ‘neebour’ is only used in Kirkcaldy (it’s not a word that I would use)! And I still can’t get over the fact that English people don’t use the word ‘outwith’. Dictionary.com doesn’t have it either — but it’s definitely a real word. How do people survive without ‘outwith’?