From “strumpet” to “airhead”, researchers reveal the once-popular slang words that are falling out of use in modern language.
The list, compiled by digital magazine subscription service Readly, reveals how “doobie”, a word for marijuana, died out three years ago, while popular surfing culture term “gnarly”, used to describe something as good or cool, was last used more than 10 years ago.
To compile the comprehensive list word historians searched the 4 000 magazines available on the digital service to spot when words first started to appear and began to fall out of use.
Although focusing on slang used in modern language, Readly’s report also charted the ebb and flow of colloquialisms from the time of Queen Victoria and the First World War.
Among the oldest linguistic casualties are “strumpet” (a female prostitute or a promiscuous woman) which vanished in 1646, and “up to snuff” (up to the required standard) which was dropped around 1831.
Younger entries in English language’s list of white elephants include “knuckle sandwich” (meaning to punch someone in the face) which came to the end of its time in 2001, and “gadzooks” (used to express surprise or annoyance) which ran its course in 1984.
“Language is defined by our culture and the evolution of many different influences,” says Readly's UK MD and Chief Content Officer, Ranj Begley. “It’s interesting to see how some words have longevity and others have come and gone.”
In addition to charting the words we no longer include in our daily conversations; researchers also highlighted a plethora of new words which entered the English language to champion the modern age.
According to Begley, “The rise of technology and social media have brought about so many new words and concepts that we’re seeing used in the magazines on our platform today.”
These include “fake news”, popularised by US President Donald Trump in 2016, “woke” (meaning a person alert to injustice), and “selfie” which was first popularised in 2002 and has since made nearly 37 000 appearances in Readly’s magazine titles.