Words Not In

Is your favorite SF word missing from Brave New Words? A great many words commonly associated with science fiction are not included in the dictionary, for a variety of reasons. Some words are associated only with a single work or fictional universe; others turn out not to have a science fiction origin after all; many, many others probably would fit the inclusion criteria, but I simply lacked enough supporting evidence to include them; and there are surely others that I simply didn’t know about. Here are some of the words I considered including, and some of my rationale for excluding them.

crifanac: I had enough evidence for this word to suggest that it was probably once common, but not enough to make an entry out of.

dilithium: despite this word’s presence in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th ed., it has virtually no life outside of the Star Trek universe, no matter how vast and well-known that universe is.

exobiology: unlike “xenobiology,” which means approximately the same thing, this is a science, rather than science-fiction, word.

fanboy: this has its origin in comics, rather than SF, fandom.

hypospray: this is another one familiar from Star Trek, and I had planned to include it until I discovered that it was invented under that name in the 1940s.

Jedi: this has a sense meaning, roughly, “an expert,” which makes it perfect fodder for BNW, but I was unaware of this usage until it was too late to research it at all.

jetpack: the earliest usage I could find of this was in reference to diving apparatus (from Thunderball, nonetheless); the first citations I found in reference to flying were non-fictional, which surprised me a bit.

space shuttle: this term was mentioned in some pre-press material, but isn’t really an SF word. Gene Roddenberry used it in the 1960s, but not in reference to anything resembling the modern spacecraft. (Shuttle, however, did make it in.)

space station: while the concept is a science-fiction staple, the word itself seems to have been coined in non-fiction.

superhero: this is primarily a comics term, but actually has a much older history. Excellent research has been done on this term by Peter Sattler and Will Murray. Anyone interested in the history of this word should look up Peter Coogan’s book Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, which includes some of Sattler’s research.

telefantasy: “a science fiction or fantasy television show.” I would love to have been able to include this, but it’s another one that I found too late to include.

telekinesis: like many words relating to psychic or psionic abilities, this has its roots in 19th-century mysticism, rather than fantasy or science fiction.


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