Skip To Content

    11 Slang Terms You Think Are New But Are In Fact Ancient

    Did you know they had hipsters in 1941?

    1. "Hipster". New slang, right? You associate it with twentysomethings with skinny jeans and beards.

    That’s because of a thing in linguistics called the “recency illusion”.

    This is the impression that words you've recently heard are brand-spanking-new to the language, when in fact they're surprisingly old. (The term itself is, ironically, relatively recent: it was coined in 2005 by a linguist called Arnold Zwicky.)

    It means we tend to think some new slang has just dropped from some teenager's mouth a few minutes ago. Usually, though, what we think of as some gleaming modern coinage is years, decades, or sometimes centuries old.

    2. "Swag". It means something like "cool".

    3. "Dude". By now it will not surprise you to learn that it goes further back than Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

    4. "Bae" isn't quite that old. But nor did it spring fully formed from the internet's forehead last year.

    5. "Baby" itself, by the way, is much older.

    6. "Onesie".

    7. "Literally" to mean "not literally".

    8. "Snark" can't have existed before the internet, can it?

    9. "Cool"? As in "hip", "rad", and other words that haven't aged as well as "cool"? That'll be from the '60s, right?

    10. "OMG". Not invented in California.

    11. "High", as in under the influence of drugs.

    So there you go. Most young-person slang is older than you are.