Time travel to the words that arrived with McMansion in 1990

According to Merriam-Webster, the word McMansion first appeared in 1990. What words came with it? From the Time Traveler in 1990:

This is an interesting list of terms that have now existed for thirty years. Like the McMansion, these refer to newer phenomena that either did not exist prior to 1990 or did not have a reason to be named.

But, just because terms were introduced does not necessarily mean that they were used at the same rate over time. Using Google NGram Viewer, here are some of the terms in comparison:

Take out the tech terms – World Wide Web and spam – and now some of the patterns regarding other social phenomena are more clear:

Since this covers books, there might be a lag compared to other sources. For example, my own analysis of the use of the term McMansion in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News found the term had higher rates of usage from roughly 2005 to 2008 (and then plateaus, just as it does with book usages several years later). But, it also takes some time for terms to be used widely. Indeed, three of the five terms above steadily rise in usage.

Given the time travel back to 1990, it might be hard for any new words to compete with computer or Internet related terms. The introduction and spread of the Internet shaped many aspects of society. At the same time, new understandings of sexuality and relationships are pretty influential as well. Perhaps thirty years is not enough to judge the impact of these words just yet.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel takes a shot at defining a McMansion

Spurred by complaints regarding McMansions in a white and wealthy Milwaukee suburb, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel explains the concept:

Neighbors say the newer homes, which boast about 5,000 square feet, dwarf the other homes on the street, which have an average size of 2,000 square feet.

Merriam-Webster definies McMansion as “a very large house built in usually a suburban neighborhood or development; especially one regarded critically as oversized and ostentatious.”

The issue that the residents in the aforementioned Whitefish Bay neighborhood have is that overly large homes are being built on properties that once had a more modest home.

That dictionary definition has a lot packed into it and could conceivably cover a lot of homes. However, it seems the residents of Whitefish Bay are most concerned about the relatively size of the new homes which are more than double the size of surrounding homes.

The article then asks whether three pictured homes from the Milwaukee area would qualify as McMansions. Based on the pictures provided, I would say no to all three though the first could be. Unfortunately, the pictures are too tight on the home – they do not give much indication of the relative size of the home, the full facade and roofline, how the home and lot fit together, and the neighborhood in which the home is situated.

Different definitions for welfare

Apparently the gubernatorial race in Maine has included discussions about how welfare provided by the government might be defined differently:

“Essentially, we all get welfare in some fundamental form or another,” said Luisa Deprez, a sociology professor at the University of Maine.

Unemployment, Social Security, school lunches, subsidized college loans and even federal tax refunds can be considered forms of public assistance, according to those who favor a broader definition.

In the context of the gubernatorial campaign, however, welfare has been discussed in its more common, narrow definition: public anti-poverty programs that help provide basic needs, such as food and shelter.

I’ve other studies that suggest the public favors government intervention more when it is called something like “government assistance” as opposed to “welfare.”

This is a reminder that there are very few people who really want no government involvement in the lives of individuals. In reality, people who are supposedly at different ends of the political spectrum are debating how much government should be involved. How many people, of any political persuasion, are willing to completely give up unemployment benefits, Social Security, or Medicare?