Popular Words from 1973
Turning back the clock
“Abroad and at home, the time has come to turn away from the condescending policies of paternalism.” — Richard Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, 1973
Given the historic and monumental legal news in the United States yesterday, I thought it might be appropriate to turn our attention to 1973.
This column is meant to be lighthearted, so I’ll not dwell on the issues beneath the first time the Supreme Court has rescinded rights from citizens.
Instead, we’ll focus on words that were popular or that originated in the year to which we find our society returning.
A View from 1973
In 1973, the U.S. economy was plagued with high inflation, an oil crisis, rising unemployment, and the worst recession since the 1930s.
The recession came about because of an OPEC oil embargo against the U.S., major government spending on the Vietnam War, a large Soviet purchase of corn, wheat, and soybeans during 1972, and a Wall Street crash that caused a bear market.
Unemployment was 5.6%, the average family income was $12,900, and a new house cost around $32,500.
The retail price for a gallon of gas averaged 39 cents, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, and an ounce of gold cost $106.48.
That’s the setting in which we find ourselves. Now, on to the words.
Words from 1973
A portmanteau of the words affluence and influenza, affluenza is defined as the negative psychological and social effects of affluence, such as the feeling of guilt by wealthy people.
The term was coined by Fred Whitman in the 1950s as a humorous way to describe children of wealthy parents. But in the following decades, the word became more prominent and evolved from its comedic origins to become a serious term, particularly in the malaise of the 1970s.
Slang for carbohydrate, an organic compound such as fiber, starches, and sugars — essential food nutrients that your body turns into glucose to give you the energy to function.
Interestingly, the book The Atkins Diet was published in 1972.
Norman Mailer first used the word factoid in his 1973 book Marilyn about Marilyn Monroe. He described factoids as “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority.”
The suffix of the word, “-oid,” can be traced to a Greek word that means “appearance or form.”
We have fun with words on Saturdays. But on weekdays, we supply you with valuable leadership lessons from throughout history.
Not to be confused with lewd, lude is short for Quaalude, the brand name for the drug methaqualone, which was prescribed for sleep disorders and then often used recreationally.
Speciesism refers to discrimination based on species, particularly the assumption of human superiority over animals.
The word was first published in Richard Ryder's 1975 book, Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research, which dedicated an entire chapter to speciesism. Sounds like a real-life Animal Farm.
It seems like a way of life now, but in 1973, stressed was added to the dictionary. If you reread the section on economic conditions, you can see why.
You have to wonder if we’re more stressed out today than ever before. It feels like it.
Triathlon refers to a combination of athletic events or races. The prefix “tri-” means three, while the suffix, “-athlon,” is Greek for contest.
Originally, a triathlon could be a combination of any three events—sometimes including fishing, horse-jumping, or shooting—but beginning in 1981, it meant a swim race, bicycle race, and marathon specifically.
Named for an office and apartment complex in Washington, DC, Watergate was a scandal that would eventually lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, over his cover-up of a break-in of the Democratic National Committee that he masterminded.
It was an earth-shattering revelation to many Americans and would prove to leave a linguistic legacy, as well as a historical one. Today, “-gate” is attached to the end of even the most minor scandals, and people who have never heard of Watergate instantly know that it indicates corruption.
Oh, and one last thing: artist Pablo Picasso, famous for his cubism, died in 1973.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.