I recently ran across an article that made this claim about when the term McMansion was first used in the New York Times:
Primarily due to plunging home values, the net worth of the median family in America from 2007 to 2009 fell to the level it was at in the early ’90s –- a time when Mark Zuckerberg was being driven to play dates and several years before the word “McMansions” appeared in the New York Times for the first time in a piece Benjamin Cheever wrote about “almost” buying one a few miles away from Zuckerberg’s Westchester County hometown.
This claim is based on the Wikipedia entry on McMansions:
The stunt word “McMansion” seems to have been coined sometime in the early 1980s. It appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1990 and the New York Times in 1998.
Having done some research on this topic, this sounded off so I decided to check it out. According to a Lexis-Nexis search, the first result for McMansion in the New York Times is from February 7, 1993. In an article titled “Builder’s Motto: ‘Move On, Clean House,’” here is how McMansion is used:
Last year the Toulsons won the Regal award from the Home Builders Association of Delaware for the best house with more than 2,500 square feet. But it has been for sale since July and remains unsold, as do dozens of others of extravagant homes, both old and new, that dot what is know locally as “Chateau Country.”
Once almost exclusively the domain of the heirs to the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company chemical fortune, much of the rolling countryside has gone under the bulldozer in recent years. Several large parcels, formerly held by the du Ponts or senior managers of the company, have been sold as subdivisions, albeit with homes priced from $800,000 to more than $1 million.
Developers, some of whose immigrant grandfathers did construction work for du Ponts, moved into the old du Pont mansions with the lovely French names while they put up $850,000 homes often called “McMansions.” Mr. Toulson himself and his father before him worked at “the Company.”
This appears to have some of the basic meanings of how the term McMansion is used today: big and expensive homes built on former undeveloped land in a Chateau style (an interesting fit for the Delaware countryside).
Lesson: the Wikipedia page is not the most accurate source for this particular issue. Interestingly, while the NYT first used the term McMansion in 1993 and not 1998, the term wasn’t used much at all before 2000. According to Lexis-Nexis, the NYT only used the term 23 times before 2000. But, as my research suggested, usage really picked up in the 2000s as the NYT used it over 600 times.