The Word of the Year Says a Lot About American History: Here’s Every One Since 1990

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The English language is constantly evolving. As communities absorb different cultures and new ideas emerge, people develop more accurate ways to express themselves. This has been the case for centuries, as slang terms have become commonly spoken only to eventually fall out of favor. Here are 32 popular slang terms no one uses anymore.

New phrases are often coined to capture new thoughts, phenomena, or ideas that are in the public consciousness. In the 1990s, with the internet entering many American homes for the first time, pre-existing words like “bug” suddenly had a whole new definition, as a computer flaw or virus. The internet also provided the medium needed to help these new words be widely shared around the world and be used in daily life.

To identify the top word every year since 1990, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the list of Words of the Year organized by the American Dialect Society (ADS). Words of the year are voted on at the ADS annual conference that takes place in January each year.

These words are highly location-dependent. In recent years, many of the words of the year have come from significant news events in American politics, like the Black Lives Matter movement or the Trump administration itself. Some of these terms may be unknown to those even in an English-speaking foreign country, just as those countries’ slang would be foreign to us. These are some Canadian slang phrases Americans don’t get.