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11 Words That Sound Modern, But Are At Least a Century Old

 If you were to imagine how the previous generations talked, a noble and formal accent similar to the British Received Pronunciation or the American Mid-Atlantic accent would probably come to mind. This makes perfect sense, as the oldest live recordings of English you’ve heard are likely not the language people spoke on the streets, but a polished and official speech by a public figure, or a good old classic movie.
However, our great grandfathers and grandmothers, too, liked to speak using their own version of slang, and it turns out that we’ve actually inherited quite a lot of that lingo. What's more, we often think these words are modern and fresh, while they're actually old. These ‘pseudo contemporary’ words and phrases, or words that we think of as fairly recent, but are actually much older, are what we will cover in this article, with 11 fun and definitely surprising examples of such words coming right up.

1. Hang Out

pseudo modern words and phrases Hang Out
The phrase 'to hang out' as a synonym of spending time together has a very modern feel to it even today, but it turns out that the first recordings of the phrase date way back to the early 19th century! It was recorded in a slang dictionary from 1811, and the phrase also appears in 'The Pickwick Papers' by Charles Dickens that was published in 1836. Back then, the phrase also referred to one's lodgings or place of residence, but also to places of gathering.

2. Booze

pseudo modern words and phrases booze
'Booze' is another one of those very colloquial words you'd think are fairly recent, but this humble and down-to-earth word is one of the oldest ones on this list, finding its origins in the Middle Ages. The word only started to be used as a noun to denote an alcoholic beverage in the late 18th - early 19th century, but before that, in 1768, it was a verb that meant "to drink heavily", which came from the Dutch verb 'to bouse' that meant the same thing and dates back to the 1300s.

3. Postmodernism

pseudo modern words and phrases Postmodernism
The postmodernism movement is the defining artistic and architectural trend of the entire second half of the 20th century, a term we heavily associate with fairly recent times. Well, it turns out that the term is actually at least half a century older than the movement itself, as the first recordings of the word go back to 1914 and 1921 where it referred to novel shifts in Catholic traditions and theology.
There is even a mention of the term from the 1870s, with John Watkins Chapman, a British painter, stating that "a Postmodern style of painting" was a style he suggested as a departure from French Impressionism.

4. Not!

pseudo modern words and phrases not!
Of course, we're not talking about the negative particle 'not' per se here, as that goes all the way back to the Anglo Saxon times, but rather the sarcastic, humorous (and often rather annoying) use of the particle at the end of the sentence, as in "I really like the way you burned those pancakes this morning - not!".
The term was definitely popularized in the 1990s by the Saturday Night Live spinoff film 'Wayne's World' (1992), but it didn't originate then. In fact, there are several examples of the use that date back to the 1800s. Consider this quote, for example, "She would make a sweet, strange, troublesome, adorable wife to some man or other, but he would never have chosen her himself. Did she feel as he did? He hoped she did — not" (The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, 1860).
5. Crib
pseudo modern words and phrases crib
You probably associate the word 'crib' as a term that denotes a house or apartment with hip-hop culture, and you wouldn't be wrong about that, as rappers do use this word a lot. Alas, they weren't the first poets to use this slang term.
As a matter of fact, the Great Bard himself - William Shakespeare - used the word as a synonym for 'home' in Henry VI, "Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee…”.  And this play was first performed on March 3, 1592, nearly half a millennium before the first rap song was ever written.

6. Flash mob

pseudo modern words and phrases flash mob
Flash mobs are known as an artistic form of expression where large groups of people suddenly gather in a public space and do some activity together, be it dancing, buying rugs, freezing, or simply lying down, only to disperse into the crowd just a few moments later.
Modern flash mobs were popularized in the early 2000s, but the hipster term is actually repurposed 19th-century thief slang, which used to refer to thieves disguised in respectable clothing that would rob shops and swindle unknowing victims. Essentially, they were a mob that would suddenly reveal their ill intentions, as if in a flash, hence the term 'flash mob'. 

7. Doohickey

pseudo modern words and phrases Doohickey
What do you call a small thing you can't remember the name of? 'Doohickey' is definitely one of the options, and you'd probably think that it's a fun colloquial word that hasn't been around for more than a few generations, but its origins are surprisingly long-established. 'Doohickey' is actually an early 20th-century mashup of two words with the same meaning, 'doodad' (1898) and 'hickey' (1909), both made-up words, just like 'doohickey' itself.
As you probably know, the word 'hickey' actually no longer refers to an unnamed thing as it used to today, which often happens when words evolve and change their meaning.  

8. Freelancer

pseudo modern words and phrases freelancer
The invention of the Internet has spawned a number of new professions and turned the way we think of the work market upside down, with even a new type of self-employment that's based on work available online gaining its own term - freelancing. But what is this term's relation to a lance, if any? If we consider this term's origin, things will get clearer.
You'll be surprised to learn that the word 'freelancer', or 'free-lance' originated in the 19th century, and it is actually one of the words likely invented by Sir Walter Scott. The great writer used this word in Ivanhoe (1820) to refer to a medieval mercenary warrior, who, if you think of it, was a kind of a freelancer even in the modern meaning of the term, but, unlike modern-day freelancers, these warriors actually used a lance quite often.  

9. Legit

pseudo modern words and phrases legit
The spread of meme culture revived the term 'legit' and gave it quite a modern sound, but the colloquial shortening of 'legitimate' is not a recent invention. Actually, the first written mention of the word is from 1897 in theater slang, and it was used to describe a dramatic performance with high literary merit, or legitimate drama, which seems legit (you see what we did there?).

10. Xmas

pseudo modern words and phrases Xmas
Christmas is often shortened to Xmas for various reasons, be it because you have to write 20+ Christmas cards in one day and your hand gets tired so you write Xmas instead of Christmas, or just because you feel like Xmas is a more neutral and modern take on the word.
Well, we're here to tell you that calling it new or modern would be quite a stretch, as the holiday, and the individual behind the holiday - Christ, was referred to as simply an "X" for millennia. This is because the letter "X" (the Greek 'chi', to be more precise) is the first letter of the Greek spelling of Christ and is widely used to represent Jesus in Biblical texts.
11. OMG
pseudo modern words and phrases omg
We've finally reached the most overused phrase on the Internet - the acronym for Oh My God, the infamous OMG. This useful little shortening sounds like it's something we have our kids and grandkids to thank for, but that assumption, as you may suspect, would be false.

The phrase actually appeared in a letter addressed to Sir Winston Churchill by Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher in 1917. In that letter, the admiral casually writes, “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis - O.M.G. (Oh! My! God!) - Shower it on the Admiralty!” This makes the phrase OMG over a century old, who knew?!

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