Carbon date your language – the 1990s

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Carbon date your language – the 1990s

As the millennium drew to a close, despite two world wars in one century, the Gulf War began with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and with it a new set of vocabulary was created including friendly fire, ethnic cleansing, and rapid-reaction force.

Politics, as ever, brought new definitions with events such as the council tax and cash for questions, terms such as green shoots of economic recovery and parliamentarians’ chicken run. New Labour and its third way, brought tough love, off-message and welfare to work.

Commerce introduced the loyalty card. The computer industry, ever-advancing, coined the Web, created mouse potatoes and cybercafes, web sites and home page, spam, morphing and famously the millennium bug.

Cool Britannia and Britpop, was interpreted as a time of confidence, despite benefit tourism, crusties, trailer trash, negative equity and jobseekers. There were docusoaps, personal stereos, red top tabloids, and workers dressed down and hot-desked while the media was accused of dumbing-down and naming and shaming.

Sexual mores meant that now there was Viagra, outing and bobbitting. The youth culture involved laddish behaviour and heroin chic, were loved-up, wore grunge clothes, drank alcopops, sat in chill-out rooms and told others to ‘get a life‘ or ‘get their kit off’. Their own inventive lingo brought saddo, poptastic, phat, slapper and babelicious.

Fashion created bad hair days. Sport had nul points, golden goal and spread betting, and with cricket, barmy army and ball-tampering. Daredevils went canyoning and zorbing. Food could be come in juice boxes, and meet was sold on the bone, churches embraced the happy-clappy if perhaps not the pre-nup. Children could be home alone, Dadrock, a disparaging term for rock music played by middle-aged rock stars, was the step before the elderly who suffered descriptions such as granny dumping and the grey pound.

Less topically induced in this decade came decluttering, and misper (translating as a person reported missing). Patronisingly or otherwise people said bless while mwah was the new air-kiss. Cleverly, a pharm was a place where genetically modified plants or animals were grown or reared to produce pharmacological products.

Emma Tidey
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