Last week in The Atlantic, journalist Stephen Fried humbly apologized for inventing the word “fashionista” in a 1993 biography of Gia Carangi. Well, it’s nice to finally have someone to blame for that madness — even if it’s only tongue-in-cheek blame. After all, the English language is an ever-evolving monster, and there’s no taming it. Here are a few more annoying (and ubiquitous) neologisms and who to blame for their existence.
The now-ubiquitous word first appeared on page 100 of Fried’s biography of Gia Carangi, Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia. He explains, “I created it because as I was writing about the fashion industry — and young model Gia Carangi’s immersion in it — there was no simple way to refer to all the people at a sitting for a magazine photo or print ad. I got tired of listing photographers, fashion editors, art directors, hairstylists, makeup artists, all their assistants, and models as the small army of people who descended on the scene. This was also the group that, according to one top fashion illustrator I interviewed, had collectively become ‘the famous non-famous people’ at Studio 54. Since I was re-reading a lot of the newspapers and magazines from the period of Gia’s supernova career in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and remembering a lot of coverage of Sandanistas (and a lot of “–ista” jokes among my mag writer friends), I just decided to try it.” As he points out, the word took hold slowly, but “dramatically expanded” in 1998, when Angelina Jolie starred as Gia in an HBO movie. In 1999, the word was added to the OED, and now it’s everywhere.