SF in the OED, Sept. ’09

I’ve been falling behind with my updates of SF words in the OED, I fear.  This quarter’s update (for those of you not keeping score at home, the OED is in the process of a complete revision, and publishes quarterly updates of new and revised entries which pretty much always makes for fascinating reading) doesn’t have much of SFnal interest — just two words by my count: clone and skinsuit.

clone, n. 2. a. Chiefly Science Fiction. Any member of a hypothetical population of artificially produced, identical people, aliens, etc. Also: a duplicate of a living person.

First citation is from Alan Toffler’s Future Shock (1977). Interestingly, none of the citations are from actual SF, although three of the citations are reviews or discussions of SF works.

skinsuit n. any of various types of (usually one-piece) suit made of elasticated material which fits tightly to the body, esp. one designed for a particular sport.

Note that this definition rolls up the SF sense of skinsuit (a tight-fitting spacesuit, often intended for short-term or emergency use) with the sporting sense (as in that garment that short-track speed skaters wear). Their first citation is from 1956in a diving context, which handily beatsBrave New Word”s 1971 citation from Keith Laumer’s Dinosaur Beach.

3 Responses to “SF in the OED, Sept. ’09”

  1. malcolm says:

    There’s a new subheading for “thought-controlled” adj. as well. I think that is definition 3. — the OED’s earliest cite is from 1977 (Craig Thomas’s Firefox), but I think there surely must be earlier cites from SF. After all, thought-controlled equipment is not new to SF: the second cite listed is from a discussion of Clarke’s 1953 City and the Stars

    Via Google books, I’ve seen bioengineering cites from the 1960s concerning limb prosthetics, and a few cites from SF magazines, including one from Astounding ca. 1955 referring to constructing a thought-controlled relay. But no useful bibliographic information or page views to help the wouldbe cite finder…

  2. jeff says:

    Good catch — I missed that one. I think the bioengineering references are a different sense, since the SFnal sense is really about telepathy and not technological nerve-machine interfaces, and it’s likely that the Astounding snippet is in a similar vein.

    I did find this, though: http://tinyurl.com/ntkbrh. Google’s copy seems to come from a modern edition (there’s a URL on the final page), but WorldCat confirms a 1971 publication date. Earlier SFnal uses are pretty likely as well, I agree.

  3. When I had a temporary job with IBM around 1977, I facetiously suggested to my boss that it would be much more efficient to send thoughts to a machine that could type them up, rather than use dictation, drafting, transcription, typing, correcting and copying. He responded that it had been tried, but there was too much interference from the many thoughts that go on in a person’s mind at one time.

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