When I was in high school, one of my friends tried to convince me that he invented the term “joshing,” as it pertains to describing a fib. When I told him that this was bullshit, and that the term had been around a lot longer than him, he replied, “Well, I reinvented it in the Peterborough area.” This man is now one of Toronto’s preeminent civil engineers, and remains a close friend. I’m not even joshing.
Adding to the lexicon of the Western World is an amazing achievement, but it’s kind of like a no-hitter. Yes, you have to be clever with your word choice, but you also have to be dependent on several factors outside of your own control, not the least of which is being in the right place at the right time.
We typically measure when a word has really “made it” by when it’s accepted into a dictionary. This isn’t a simple process. It requires a lot of research to find a word’s origins and the development of its current meaning. So, every year when dictionary publishers announce the newest terms for inclusion, it’s usually done on the back of word historians finding the first utterance of the newly-made legitimate term. So, with the announcement that the newest additions to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary will include “F-bomb,” we’ve been made aware of the term’s origins in popular culture.
This brings us to the Associated Press, which shares the following story:
Kory Stamper, an associate editor for Merriam-Webster, said she and her fellow word spies at the Massachusetts company traced it back to 1988, in a Newsday story that had the now-dead Mets catcher Gary Carter talking about how he had given them up, along with other profanities.
Thank you, Mr. Carter. Your contributions to both baseball and word use continue to inspire us.