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Lex maniac

Investigating changes in American English vocabulary over the last 40 years

I’ve been an attentive reader for over forty years. I’ve spent a lot of time reading a wide variety of texts — underground comix and daily newspapers and great dead white poets, and everything in between. I have degrees in English from Vanderbilt and University of Virginia, but other than that, no credentials for this sort of thing, beyond a fascination with capturing and cataloguing some of the ways our vocabulary has changed since 1975 or so.

These are the musings of a passionate observer of language trying to make sense of a fast-moving lexicon. My research is limited to LexisNexis, Google Books, and my own reasonably well-stocked dictionary shelf; the conclusions are colored by my own memory and how much I got around, and my limitations will be obvious enough. Of course I will be wrong a certain amount of the time, and I ask you to post corrections and comments here or by e-mail to All commentary copyright by Dave Stein.

I’ll try to add one or two new expressions each week. I have a full-time job and my girlfriend is a single mother, so I may not be able to keep up. I do hope to inspire and maintain interest in the way our language continues to change.

Among all the people who have helped me get this far, two deserve special mention: Liz Hollander and Tim Nissen. Couldn’t have done it without y’all.


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