Having posted on the first two installments of Dave Wilton’s “word of the year” series (words of 1911, words of 1912), I hadn’t been planning to continue, but his latest post, on words first attested in 1916, contains one so dear to my heart I can’t resist: proto-Indo-European, n. and adj. Another striking entry:
fuck-all, n. and adj. The so-called f-bomb may be the most versatile word in the language, appearing in countless forms and contexts. This particular variant, meaning “absolutely nothing,” appears in a British trial transcript from this year, indicating that despite the popular opinion that our use of the language is coarsening, fuck has been in wide and versatile use for a long time, only publishers wouldn’t admit it.
As I did in the related Wordorigins forum thread, I’ll quote the full sentence from the trial transcript to give the flavor of army English of the day: “He then said, ‘You are a fucking coward & you will go to the trenches—I give fuck all for my life & I give fuck all for yours & I’ll get you fucking well shot.’” (From Record of the Trial of H. Farr, quoted in Jesse Sheidlower’s invaluable The F-Word, which I reviewed here.) Some other interesting words first attested in that year: ambivalent, dealership, dysfunction, National Socialist, red giant, and tank.