Carbon date your language – the 1970s

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The reaction to the Sixties had kicked in. The evolution of business practice brought golden handshakes, buy-outs, bean counters, asset-striping, pyramid selling, quango, creative accounting, cashpoints, laundering of money, debit cards and direct debit. All familiar and able to be interpreted these days! Employment concerns meant a range of neologisms such as, dehire, downsizing, flying pickets, industrial action, flexitime and job centres and the classic word jobsworth. The advance of computers meant that we came up against high-tech, laser printers, windows, dot matrix, word processors, hacking and data protection.

The troubles in Northern Ireland introduced us to rubber bullets, car bomb, no-go area, and politics generally brought collateral damage, spin, human shield, the hard left, boat people, back to basics, and Militant Tendency.

Environmentalism brought its own new vocabulary: tree-huggers, doomwatch, noise pollution, global warming, pooper-scooper, gas guzzlers and bottle banks. On the tarmac were speed bumps and the Popemobile. Media and communications invented kiss and tell, electronic mail, prequels, megastars, supermodels, televangelists, couch potatoes, action replays, compact discs and pay-per-view.

Sexual politics arrived along with women being liberated, gender gap, paternity leave, full-frontal nudity, libbers and male chauvenism.  Sexist assumptions found the use of the word man as a masculine word, spawning the reassessment of the word chairperson and herstory (for history). Society found itself concerned with baby boomers, the poverty trap and quality time.

The British interest in food adopted the food processor, detox, cling film, pina coladas, pub grub, Big Mac, vegeburgers, junk food, minibars and nouvelle cuisine and the Australian Barbie translatable to our climate with relative ease.

The younger generation, as always, coined much of the new lingo with airhead, karaoke, and the world of sex brought nubile and page three girl. Fashion, always reinventing itself, spawned leg-warmers, flip-flops, trainers and hot pants, the bomber jacket and the futon.

Less topically derived were cherry-pick, piss artist, her indoors, line in the sand, and squeaky clean (probably originating from hair that had been washed and rinsed so clean that it squeaks).

Other articles in this series: Carbon date your language 1950s | 1960s | 1980s

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