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History of English: part two Previous Post: Five events that shaped the history of English: part two

Which word is older?

 

As part of our occasional series, have a look at these five pairs of related words and see if you can guess which entered the language first.

1)      Telephone and annoyance

2)      Bodacious and badass

3)      Patriot and traitor

4)      Chauvinism and sexism

5)      Sexy and anaphrodisiac

 

Answers

1) It will perhaps come as no great surprise that annoyance should predate the telephone – surely someone must have been disturbing people at home prior to the telemarketer. What may be surprising is that the first citation that the OED has for telephone is several decades before Alexander Graham Bell’s invention – it describes a different kind of telephone (a noisemaking device used by ships).

Telephone – 1835
Annoyance – c1386

2) Both bodacious and badass have the sound of the mid-twentieth century to them, but the former predates the latter by over a hundred years albeit in a different sense (i.e. ‘complete or thorough’). The modern meaning, excellent or fabulous, is considerably later – 1976.  Bodacious is thought to be a blend of bold and audacious.

Bodacious – 1845
Badass – 1955

3) It seems slightly odd that the word for one who betrays one’s country should come a hundred years before the word for one who loves it, but language often works in mysterious ways. Both patriot and patriotism appear well before nationalism, which doesn’t show up in English until the very end of the 18th century.

Patriot – 1577
Traitor (in the sense of betraying one’s country) – c1290

4) Chauvinism and sexism entered the English language at almost the same time. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation for sexism predates that for chauvinism by just four years.

Chauvinism – 1870
Sexism – 1866

5) Although it might be tempting (no pun intended) to attempt to draw conclusions from sexy appearing later than its antonym, there is no particular significance in the gap of sixty-odd years between the words.

Sexy – 1896
Anaphrodisiac – 1823

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