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Today's Word



Mar 11, 2024
This week’s theme
Words entering English in the last 30 years

This week’s words

Illustration: Anu Garg + AI

Previous week’s theme
Words derived from body parts
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with Anu Garg

Time flies when you are having fun. It was thirty years ago this month (Mar 14, 1994) when I started what turned into Wordsmith.org. As a graduate student studying computer science I began sharing the joy of words with fellow grad students. It spread by word of mouth and today it has grown into a community with readers in some 170 countries. See a Scrabble-like grid of the 6653 words featured thus far.

On Wordsmith.org’s tricennial we thank you for being here. Thank you for being a part of this journey.

How did we survive those early years with no smartphones and no Google? If something hasn’t ever existed you don’t miss it.

Same with words.

Hard to miss a word because what it describes doesn’t exist, or is rare. Maybe the idea is out there, but no implementation.

This week we have rounded up five words that entered the English language during the last 30 years. A language is the safe-keeper of time’s faded photographs. Think of this week’s five words as selfies taken during the last 30 years.

Note: What we have listed are the earliest documented dates for these words, as we know now via the OED. Antedating -- discovery of an earlier citation of a word -- happens all the time, so it’s highly likely someone would find even an earlier usage. Send them in if you find them!

To celebrate our 30 years, we want to hear from you. Submit a 30-word tribute to your favorite word. It can take any form, for example, an ode, a paragraph, a limerick, a rap song, a short story, a pair of haikus, and so on. (It can’t be a single haiku because they are only 17 syllables, thus a maximum 17 words.) Your favorite word doesn’t have to be the one we have featured in past.

Your choice of:
A one-year subscription to Audible
A one-year subscription to the Dictionary of American Regional English
A one-year subscription to Super Duolingo
A signed copy of any of Anu Garg’s books

Deadline is Fri this week. Enter here. See contest results.

On to today’s word ...



verb tr., intr.: To test a company’s product by having its employees use it in their regular workday.

From dog + food. The origins of the term are disputed. Earliest documented use: 1996.

Why is this called dogfooding instead of, say, icecreaming? Dog food is meant for another species and seen as unappetizing for humans. In the same manner, a product is meant for customers. Its use by employees may be unappetizing especially if the product is still not fully baked, and has bugs. The term was popularized at Microsoft, though its exact origins are debated. According to The New York Times, an executive of Kal Kan actually ate its dog food at a shareholder meeting.

“Marina developed a brilliant user interface ... After a few weeks, they all cut over to this new setup, dogfooding it to make sure it was robust and useful.”
Kevin Robert Aldrich; Racing Hearts; Aldys Books; 2022.

Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because we build cars and buildings and start wars etc., and all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish and play around. Dolphins believe that they are smarter for exactly the same reasons. -Douglas Adams, writer, dramatist, and musician (11 Mar 1952-2001)

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