20 Words and Phrases You Had No Idea Were Coined in New York City
Hey, youz! Check out all these vocab gems that were born in New York City!
Sounds like a word from Wyoming, but it was actually the term given to bands of men who rustled cows in New York in the 1800s. This one’s an oldie but a goodie. Try using it in a sentence with one of these brand-new words added to the dictionary in 2019.
New York writer O. Henry first recorded the term in 1904. It was street slang for “buddy.” Why? Men’s side pants pockets—called sidekicks—were the most difficult for pickpockets to reach and therefore reliable, like a trusted friend, always at your side.
Meaning “worthless” or “absurd,” this word may come from the inability of early 20th-century kids in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to pronounce decalcomania, a cheap picture to be transferred onto wood or china (a decal). This oddball word can be tricky to spell—how many m’s are there?—but it’s got nothing on the most commonly misspelled words in the English language.
It didn’t invent the concept of one store with different departments, but the first store to actually call itself this was H. H. Heyn’s Department Store in 1887.
It got its name because secondhand items have fleas, right? Guess again. Downtown Manhattan was home to vallie (valley) markets in Dutch Colonial days. The term was abbreviated to vlie (pronounced “flee”) market, and was eventually anglicized to flea market. Add this one to the list of 10 English words you won’t find in any other language.
Attributed to Punk magazine editor Legs McNeil, describing the 1970s music scene that started in lower Manhattan.
At his death in 1848, New York fur trader John Jacob Astor was worth $20 million (about $80 billion in today’s dollars). The term was first applied to him. Try out these funny words that will improve your vocabulary.