7 words and phrases that turn 100 this year

Celebrating a centennial is the cat’s meow, and “cat’s meow” is doing just that this year.

Merriam-Webster defines the phrase as “a highly admired person or thing.”

Meow (which the British spell miaow) refers to the crying sound made by a cat, Merriam-Webster states. However, “It is unclear how the sound influenced the term cat’s meow for someone or something greatly admired, which is a sense heard in 1921. But a meow can be cute sounding and it definitely draws attention.”

The dictionary’s website cites a January 1921 passage by W. Thomas and R. A. Davis in “The Sleeping Car Conductor” as the first use of the phrase. “Leach’s report on the Convention was the ‘Cat’s meow,’ believe me. President Warfield and whole membership should give him a vote of thanks.”

“Cat’s meow” isn’t the only word or phrase marking a 100th anniversary. Here are six more:

Abominable snowman

Definition: a mysterious creature with human or apelike characteristics reported to exist in the high Himalayas

According to the dictionary, abominable snowman makes its first appearance in Charles Howard-Bury’s chronicle of his Mount Everest expedition titled “Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance, 1921″ (published in 1922).

“We were able to pick out tracks of hares and foxes, but one that at first looked like a human foot puzzled us considerably. Our coolies at once jumped to the conclusion that this must be ‘The Wild Man of the Snows,’ to which they gave the name of Metohkangmi, ‘the abominable snow man’ who interested the newspapers so much.”

Arms control/race

Arms control: limitation of the use, exchange or manufacture of military weapons by nations often as a policy established through diplomatic negotiation

Arms race: a race between hostile nations to accumulate or develop weapons

Arms race started its run in 1921 with arms control, both of which were triggered by the development of military weapons by competing nations,” Merriam-Webster wrote. “The resultant arms treaty is also written in 1921 for the treaty controlling the number of weapons accumulated or developed by the nations.”


Definition: a headhunter who shrinks the heads of the victims; a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist

In 1921, headshrinker appeared as a word to identify people who practiced shrinking the decapitated heads of their enemies, the dictionary wrote.

“The modern-day headshrinker does nothing brutal, we think. Today’s headshrinker (or shrink) merely ‘gets into’ a patient’s head and helps ‘shrink’ the problems lurking there down to manageable size,” it wrote.

Cover charge

Definition: a charge made by a restaurant or nightclub in addition to the charge for food and drink

We’ve all paid one at some point. According to the dictionary, the term cover charge evolved from the sense of cover meaning “a tablecloth and other table accessories,” and early print evidence suggests it is from 1921.


Definition: to force (one’s way) through with loud crashing noises; to enter or attend something (such as a party, dance, sports event, etc.) without invitation or without paying

In the Random House Historical Dictionary, “there is a citation from 1921 for the colloquial sense of the verb crash referring to the act of breaking into a place, and it quite possibly could be an indicator of when the sense begins being used along with other related senses referring to entering a place forcefully or without invitation, ticket, or payment,” Merriam-Webster wrote.


Definition: a run in baseball that is driven in by a batter; official credit to a batter for driving in a run

RBI is an abbreviation for “run batted in.” Although batters have gotten RBIs and runs have been batted in since the beginning of baseball, RBI begins its streak in 1921 as a baseball initialism.