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kottke.org posts about culture

Time travel through words with Merriam-Webster

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Oct 25, 2018

This is much more satisfying than browsing Google Trends, and just as illuminating about cultural shifts. Merriam-Webster’s new Time Traveler surfaces words based on the year they were first introduced in print*.

Apparently I was born the same year as the high five, ecofeminism, air guitar, voice mail, gridlock, heavy lifting, and gazillionaire.

My alma mater was founded in the same year as the words capitalism, Chianti, sassy, pants, pseudoclassic, tragic irony, mauve, and, my personal favorite, somnambulate.

*An important note on First Known Use dates:

The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.

The placebo effect is real apparently even

posted by Deron Bauman   Mar 05, 2008

The placebo effect is real apparently even when you know it’s a placebo, and, alternately, the possibility exists that cultural expectations of whether a drug works may have an effect on how well the drug works:

There are various possible interpretations of this finding: it’s possible, of course, that it was a function of changing research protocols. But one possibility is that the older drug became less effective after new ones were brought in, because of deteriorating medical belief in it.