MacGyver, Paparazzi, and Other Words Originating from Pop Culture

MacGyverDVDThe most remarkable thing about Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) in Ridley Scott’s blockbuster movie, “The Martian,” is his ingenuity in troubleshooting while stranded on Mars. You could say that he MacGyvered his way out of Mars with the help of duct tape, rocks, tarp, and whatever material was at hand. MacGyver is a good example of a word originating from popular culture that’s now entrenched in our vocabulary.

The English language has borrowed words from the vast arena of culture since the time of William Shakespeare, the source of 1,700 English words, according to Shakespeare Online, a Web site dedicated to the Bard.

10 Words Originating from Pop Culture
More recently, we’ve added the following words to our vocabulary, thanks to popular books, films, TV shows, and one movie actor:

Big Brother: An all-powerful organization or government that monitors and directs people’s actions. From George Orwell’s novel, “1984.”

Catch-22: A dilemma or difficult situation without any easy solution. From Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, “Catch 22.”

Cyberspace: The online world of networks and the Internet. From William Gibson’s 1982 short story, “Burning Chrome,” and later, his 1984 novel, “Neuromancer.”

Paparazzi: Photographers who hound famous people. From a character named Paparazzo, a news photographer, in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film, “La Dolce Vita.”

MacGyver: To jury-rig or build something out of any materials at hand. From the TV show, “MacGyver” (airing from 1985 to 1992), whose hero, Angus MacGyver, repaired things by improvising.

Hologram: A facility where a person can experience a holographic environment. From the TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Hoverboard: A board that looks like a skateboard without wheels and can levitate. From “Back to the Future,” directed by Robert Zemeckis. In the film, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) used a hoverboard. The word gained traction recently when Lexus announced that it has developed Slide, a hoverboard.

McConaissance: The series of acting awards won by actor Matthew McConaughey in 2014.

Robot: A machine controlled by a computer; a mechanism guided by automatic controls. From a 1920 play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), written by a Czech writer, Karel Čapek. The word originally referred to work and drudgery.

Warp Speed: The highest possible speed. Also from the TV series, “Star Trek.”

Read more about new words in the Oxford Dictionary that originated from pop culture.

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  1. Thanks. I have tremendously enjoyed visiting here this year and look forward to many more visits. Regards Thom.

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