Twitter accounts track words new to The New York Times

Ever wonder when a word first appeared in the nation’s preeminent newspaper? A trio of Twitter accounts track newcomers—including potty-mouthed presidential pronouncements.

If you’ve ever been surprised to see unlikely word pop up in the staid pages of The New York Times and other publications, welcome to our brave new publishing world.

These words could be coarse (“shithole“), bewildering (“mafroukeh“) or oddly poetic, if poetry were written by robots (“cryptotulips“).

Now there are Twitter feeds where word-lovers can follow coinages and new uses in the era of a president who delights in lobbing verbal stink bombs (as, to be fair, do many of his foes).

Whether you’re a doddering graybeard or a millennial who can’t order a latte without dropping the F-bomb, perhaps you share the sense that it’s hard to track all these newcomers to our once-prim newspapers.

Now, your friends in the glittering galaxy of Twitter are gathering these words for you. The account @NYT_first_said drops in words as they first pop up in the nation’s leading newspaper. If your response to the word “frumpers” is to say, “Hey, whoa, who came up with that beauty?” you’ll also find the context subtweeted by @NYT_said_where.

Finally, in the About Time Department, @NYT_finally_said notes words that have belatedly appeared in The New York Times after extensive use elsewhere.

The recent hullabaloo

The latest controversial word was introduced to the Times’ vocabulary Jan. 11 following a closed-door White House meeting on immigration. The lone Democrat in attendance, Sen. Richard Durbin, said Trump contended that the United States shouldn’t take immigrants from “s—hole countries.”

Some Republicans in the room (or with access to those senators) have confirmed Trump’s use of the expletive. Other Republicans at first said they couldn’t recall hearing it, then denied the utterance outright a few days later. Trump has since denied that he used the word, saying only that he used “tough” talk on the issue.

The term itself has since pervaded mainstream discourse.

Either way, a president who introduced a vulgarism for a female body part to many newspapers’ lexicons might do well to reflect on why so many people believed not him, but his political foes. It wasn’t just the partisan opposition that was offended. Among Trump’s early critics (this time around, anyway) was a Republican congresswoman of Haitian descent.

The Oxford English Dictionary records the first instance of “shithole” in 1629, referring to a body part that Preparation H would like to corner the market on. (Trust me: The sentence OED cited, even way back in the 17 th century, is too vile to quote.) As a designation for a “wretched place,” a “dirty or dilapidated dwelling,” or a “remote, downtrodden, or unpleasant city, town, etc.,” the term dates only to 1930.

Thank you for your service

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the president’s (alleged) use of the word entered the language through soldiers stationed abroad. Amid the recent controversy, many veterans could be found spouting off on Twitter about the Preparation H-holes where they had been privileged to serve their country.

The accounts tweeting the Times’ new vocabulary include words just as salty as America’s new favorite freak-out phrase (try dropping “whoremistress” at your next family get-together), but plenty of other terms will please those who are simply interested the psychedelic oscillations of our lava-lamp language. Take “bumpfire,” for example.

Or how about “etiolations,” which appeared in a story on Ezra Pound?

Also, don’t forget “blizzardnoise,” which popped up in a sentence that also used the head-scratcher “troposphering.” (Just how does a “limbo troposphere?)

Whenever our dreary public discourse lurches between base and bewildering, at least we can entertain ourselves heralding the arrival of “kilimologist” or “deedley” (“singing: “Here they come! Deedley deedley deeeee!”)

Curse words and coinages, like pugnacious presidents, come and go, and someday no one but etymologists and Preparation H salespersons will remember the great s—storm of January 2018. Take comfort in that.

Singing deedley, deedley, deeeee.


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