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old books

Which word is older?

There are a number of people who decry some of the recent additions to the English language, contending that the new vocabulary is nothing more than a bunch of nonsense words that some computer-addicted kids made up (what is a w00t, anyway?).   Yet when we view some of these words out of context, it can be difficult to guess how old a word is.  For each of the following examples, see if you can tell which word entered the English language first. Answers are at the end of this page (no peeking!).

Unfriend or computer

Fabulosity or abdominal

Frenemy or mobbed-up

Google or yahoo


Unfriend vs. computerunfriend dates from 1275 as a noun, and from 1659 as a verb, preceding the recent Facebook trend by some number of years.  Computer entered the English language in 1613, in the sense of ‘a person who makes calculations.’

Fabulosity vs. abdominal: fabulosity has been used since the very beginning of the 17th century – it predates abdominal by almost 150 years.

Frenemy vs. mobbed-up: frenemy was first used in 1953 by newspaper commentator Walter Winchell; the earliest recorded use of mobbed-up occurred in 1963.

Google vs. yahoo: yahoo was used in 1726 by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels; google dates from 1907, as a cricket term.

And w00t is an Internet term indicating excitement or happiness.

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