Penny Next post: A penny for your thoughts …

Cornwall Previous Post: How a single word can change a life

Has the culture of the ‘celeb’ begun to decline?

Paparazzi

The Oxford English Corpus, our unique two-billion word database of real twenty-first century English, shows that the use of celebrity has risen steadily since the year 2000 – but the use of the informal abbreviation celeb has dropped since 2006.

Perhaps this suggests that the public may be starting to tire of these trashy, wannabe, Z-list individuals – all words regularly found attached to celeb in the Corpus:

A gossip magazine sat in front of me, the usual glossy shots of trashy celebs in poses that could only elicit pity and tongue-clucking.

So what was living in a rat-infested hell-hole with a group of exposure-hungry, Z-list celebs really like?

With its overpriced drinks and wannabe celeb crowd it’s really difficult to see how anybody could rate this bar as The place to be seen in.

Hundred-year old ‘celebs’

Though it seems very much a product of the twenty-first century, with its glut of reality TV and promises of instant fame, the abbreviation celeb was first recorded almost a hundred years ago, as this quotation from the OED, addressed to Woodrow Wilson, shows:

Dear Woodrow, you can have your job,
You’re welcome to it, too;
I’m glad I’m just a common lob
An’ no celeb, like you.
Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily News, 27 February 1913

The social whirl

Similarly, celebutante (a blend of celebrity and debutante) is an older coinage than you might first think. The word sounds as if it was invented to describe the likes of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, but the OED’s first recorded use is in the late 1930s:

Brenda Frazier, who inspires a new 1-word description: Celebutante.
Nevada State Journal, 11 April 1939

More recently, celebs have been joined by slebs, so perhaps the celebrity culture still has some life in it, even if only as a source of neologisms! How long these words will outlast the fifteen minutes of fame of the individuals they describe is something we will have to wait to find out …