The 90-year-old bimbo

THE SPICE GIRLS may be a bunch of "bimbos" who think they invented the concept of "girl power" in 1996. In fact the phrase was first used in America 10 years previously.

Girl power and bimbo are both included in a new dictionary outlining words that have defined the 20th century. In many cases the words are much older than most people believe.

The Los Angeles Times has the first recorded use of girl power, which it defined as "health power - motivating young girls to take responsibility for their health and fitness". The dictionary, 20th Century Words, lists decade by decade the 5,000 most important words that have entered the English language over the past 100 years.

Not surprisingly the Sixties saw a large number of new words for drugs and the enhanced state of awareness they produce, while the Twenties was the decade of the "perm" and the "jive". Acronyms were a big feature of the Forties, the same time that "aliens" first appeared.

John Ayto, editor of the dictionary, to be published by Oxford University Press at the end of this month, said: "Researching the book confirmed what I had long suspected - that our assumptions about the language are often wide of the mark.

"It is perhaps not surprising that so many drug-related words sprang up in the 1960s but many people do not realise that the 'iron curtain' was in use back in the 1920s long before it passed into common usage after the Second World War."

And as for those bimbos, they have been around for nearly 90 years. The dictionary traces the first appearance of the word back to the 1910s.

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