Lexical insights into changes in American culture

Mark Davies

Year Word Etymology / cultural importance OED: First occurrence Google Books: first Google Books: history COHA: first COHA: history
1844 rodeo Comes from Spanish, where it was used by the vaqueros (cowboys) to mean "round up". Entered English in the 1840s, because settlers had come to California and had started interacting with the local Mexicans there. 1834 1824. When the day of the rodeo is appointed, the men, being all mounted [rodeo] Increase since early 1800s 1849. The rider was an Indian ... who had just made the rodeo, or round, in order to collect the cattle [rodeo] Only one occurrence in 1840s, and then none again until 1890s. Increase in the 1920s (why?) and then again (for some reason) in the 1970s.
1869 showboat There were boats that had drama, music, etc on them before the Civil War, but they really flourished in the period right after the Civil War. 1869 show-boat (n); 1951 (v) 1857. the first showboat to sail in 1830 from Cincinnati to New Orleans [showboat] Sudden increase in 1930s; not sure why. 1929. Of the progress of the showboat, Cotton Palace, down the river [showboat] Stays pretty flat from the 1920s until the 2000s. (False) increase in the 1950s mainly due to one novel.
Note: checked showboat, show-boat, show*boat*,and show [boat]
1894 cold feet Slang in the 1890s, meaning lack of enthusiasm for something. Really caught on among college-age students in early 1900s. ?? 1897 (UK). to be drummed out of the industrial camp to the accompanying cries of "Cold feet!" "Cold feet!" the great army of the workers will perform their duties
[get] cold feet
[cold feet] Fairly flat since the mid-1800s 1902. and you bein' a preacher, Bill thought you might get cold feet.
1873. (Maybe) he is not one of those who have cold feet and torpid digestions. He can run and think all day
[cold feet] Possibly an increase from about 1900 to the 1920s/1930s, and then slight decrease since then.
Note: Examples from the 1800s refer to literal feet that are cold.
1919 T-shirt Name comes from the shape of the undershirt, since most before that time were sleeveless. Covered with a sweatshirt (1925). Common to have advertising on T-shifts by the 1930s-1940s. 1920 1921. I cannot part with that old T-shirt because though it was so very dirty [T shirt] Huge spike in 1950s (James Dean, etc?); decrease since. 1920. one sweater or T shirt, one jersey, one overcoat, winter, etc [T shirt] [T-shirt] Clear increase, pretty much every decade, from 1920s until 2000s. Probably due to increased use of t-shirts in the "real world". Shift from [t shirt] to [t-shirt] over time as well.
1944 snafu From (politely) "situation normal, all fouled up", referring to the craziness of military life. Lots of other -fu- words as well, like fubar "fouled up beyond all recognition". 1941 1940. it looked like a fine case of snafu and frustration

1928?? Journalism educators are by no means alone in the snafu of letters and the numbers game.

[snafu] First in 1940s (WW II); and then increase since 1980s. 1942. Snafu, politely translated, means "situation normal, all fouled up." [snafu] High point in the 1940s, then decrease by 1950s and fairly flat since then. Maybe due to "obscene" meaning, or decrease in military?
1969 sexism/ageism The desire to confront racism in the 1950s-60s lead to emphasis on other -isms by the late 1960s, including these two. Some think that the -ism craze has gone too far (political correctness) . 1934 sexism (but earlier, with different meaning).
1969 ageism

1969. Movement beyond racism to ageism and sexism institutional inequalities

[ageism] Big increase 1970s-1990s; decrease since.

1970. Now the results are in and varsity sexism is on the way out
1967. we'll have to make changes next ageism to prevent a draft from SikLa
[sexism] Increase from 1970s-1990s, possible decrease since then.
[ageism] Flat from 1960s-1980s, increase since then (as baby boomers reach this age?).
1994 go postal The government held a conference on workplace safety in 1994, and it focused more than anything on violence in post offices. Also, there were a number of cases of postal workers killing colleagues about this time. 1993 1992. the kind who might one day go postal and shoot his adviser [go postal] Low in 1990s; huge jump by 2000s. 1994. Remember that guy in Toledo who went postal after losing his job? [go] postal in [COHA], [COCA]. High point in late 1990s, decrease since then, not sure why.