TIME Television

From the Black Eyed Peas to Battlestar Galactica: Every Single Pop Culture Reference Ever on The Office

John Krasinski, Co-Star of NBC's Hit Show "The Office," Does His Holiday Shopping at The Grove - December 8, 2005
Chris Haston / NBC / Getty Images John Krasinski, co-star of NBC's hit television show "The Office"

Introducing the handy guide to all the show's cultural references, organized by year

Anyone who’s watched more than an episode or two of The Office knows that the characters — especially boss Michael Scott — like to make pop culture references. But until you see all of these references catalogued and organized in one place, it’s easy to miss just how influential pop culture was on the show’s humor and overall aesthetic — and just how abundant the references really are.

That’s where The Office Time Machine comes in. Created by digital artist and director Joe Sabia, the website lets you plug in any year and view a compilation of every pop culture reference from that time period. According to Sabia, throughout the series’ nine seasons, there are around 1,300 references to TV shows, movies, celebrities, catchphrases, holidays and more. The project, which took him a year and a half to complete, intends to “to advocate for copyright reform and highlight the importance of fair use in protecting creators and their art.

On the site, Sabia explains that he also hopes to highlight just how much we rely on culture:

The Office is relatable (and hilarious) because it borrows so much from culture, and people get the references. Culture is society’s collected knowledge, art, and customs. It’s what surrounds us and unites us, and it allows us to collectively laugh at a joke in The Office about Ben Franklin or M. Night Shyamalan. Culture, simply put, is the seasoning in a meal.

Here are a few of the compilation videos:

Sabia’s catalog is impressively comprehensive, though there were a few references he was unable to pinpoint:

So if you’re able to identify any of those, he’d love for you to contact him. Then, maybe you two could enjoy a Battlestar Galactica marathon followed by a rousing debate over whether or not Hilary Swank is hot.

TIME language

Why It’s Called an ‘Equinox’ and Other Delightful Spring Words You Should Know

Harold Lloyd / Getty Images / Flickr Delicate white primrose flowers bathed in light

Spring is a time for growing, a time for renewal, and a time for using words that you don’t get to use the rest of the year

Today is the first day of spring, also know as the equinox. While that might sound like a name of a place where hunks sculpt their biceps, the word comes from the Latin term aequinoctium, meaning equality between day and night (aequi = equal and ­noct = night). That is what today is after all: one of the two periods of the year when the sun crosses the equator and the days and nights are in equal length all over the earth, marking our spin from winter to spring.

But equinox is just the beginning. Here is TIME’s guide to other great words you just might get to use in the coming months, whether you’re chatting to an American farmer, a South Asian in a whirlwind or a British person having marital problems (with most adapted definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary):

blackberry winter (n.): Used chiefly in the southern regions of America, this refers to a period of cold weather in the late spring, more boringly called a “cold snap.” The term is said to come from chilly weather appearing after the blackberry plants have begun to bloom, which Americans will feast on in cobblers throughout summer. Other terms for this are after-winter, blackthorn winter, dogwood winter or redbud winter.

Chelidonian (adj): This delicious adjective refers to spring winds, and is derived from the Greek word for swallow (as in the bird, not the thing you do after masticating). Because the Chelidonian winds are said to arise at the first coming of yonder swallows.

cuckoo (n.): You might know the cuckoo for the clocks these birds decorate, but these migratory birds are also known as the “harbingers of spring,” arriving in places like the British Isles in April. Fun fact: the cuckoo is also known for not hatching its own offspring but depositing its eggs in the nest of other, unsuspecting small birds— which is where we get the term cuckold, referring to the unsuspecting husband of an unfaithful wife, who could be raising another man’s child.

eating its first grass (v.): If something is eating its first grass, then it is in its first year. In previous centuries, people measured time by the yearly growths of grass, which happen in the spring and early summer. So they might also talk about that wild party that happened “last grass” or someone being seven years old “next grass” or a cow that is “eating its first grass.” Today, this term might be revived in Washington and Colorado with a rather different meaning.

fast-day (n.): For centuries, the people of New Hampshire all got together and didn’t eat — or observed a fast — on a day appointed by the governor each spring. Fast Day was proclaimed in New Hampshire in 1681, as a desperate attempt to avert the death of the governor, which had been foretold by Haley’s Comet. (You can’t make this stuff up.) Though the original purpose faded, New Hampshirites kept enjoying a three-day holiday until 1991, when the legislature abolished Fast Day.

gowk’s-storm (n.): This is another fun term derived from the cuckoo, known as a gowk in some Scottish dialects. The gowk’s-storm is a spring gale, particularly one that occurs at the time the cuckoo flies onto the scene.

Hebe (n.): Hebe (pronounced HEE-bee), taking her name from the Greek word for youthful prime and puberty, is the daughter of Zeus and Hera, as well as the goddess of youth and spring. So her name has also been used to refer to women in their early youth as well as waitresses and barmaids. Try that out at your local watering hole (or at least start drink orders with “Barkeep!”).

Maia (n.): Maia was also a pretty lady, one of the many that Zeus had a thing for and who bore his son Hermes. In Roman mythology, she came to personify the spring and fertility, and is said to have given her name to the month of May.

month-brother (n.): You probably know that April showers bring May flowers, but you might not know that both March and April are known as “month-brothers,” being the rowdier, stormier siblings to lovely May, known as a “month-sister.” These names come from the poetic stylings of Englishman Gerard Manley Hopkins.

mud time (n.): In the Northeast, the straightforwardly named mud time is the period of early spring before the ground is completely thawed and there is much mud. “As soon as spring opens, the people trot out their old shoes,” wrote the New Hampshire Portsmouth Herald in 1902, “and have them patched up to wear through mud time.”

pishachi (n.): If you happen to be in South Asia this spring and experience a whirlwind, you should tell your friends you are in a pishachi, a word that comes from the Sanskrit term for female demon. If you happen to be in Africa and stuck in a “hot, dry, suffocating sand-wind” which sweeps across the deserts at intervals during the spring, you should know that you are in a simoom. But you probably shouldn’t say it, because you will get sand in your mouth.

primaveral (adj.): This term, coming from the Latin primum ver, or earliest spring, can be used to describe anything happening in early spring. In Italian, spring is known as primavera, from which the tasty pasta dish takes its name. Spring can also be referred to as prime temps (from Latin primus, meaning of the highest quality, and temps, referring to time), as well as prime time and prime tide.

shunto (n.): In Japan, springtime is a time for wage-bargaining. Also known as the “labor offensive,” there are plenty of prognostications about what will happen in this year’s round of talks between major firms and labor unions.

vernal (adj.): Vernal is another word that can be used to describe anything happening or appearing in the springtime, coming from Latin vernus, which means “pertaining to spring.” So if you vernalize something, you make it spring-like. If something has spring-like qualities, you might note its vernality. And if a friend of yours has a lovely garden growing in the spring, you should probably compliment them on their impressive vernation.

TIME Entertainment

9 Great Things to Read in (Roughly) 9 Minutes

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In honor of National Reading Month, we've compiled a list of great things, besides important books, that pack a lot of good reading into a little space

March is National Reading Month, but don’t worry. This article is not going to be about the big, blubbery virtues of Moby Dick or the nuances of Nicholas Nickleby. While reading “great books” is great, it can feel like a commitment that doesn’t jibe with modern life, fractured as it is into an unending barrage of tweets and screens and streams.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever make time for epic novels or that reading isn’t important. Reading is how we encounter and learn new words, those things we use to communicate and get jobs and woo lovers and understand basically everything. Luckily for the busy, distracted reader, not all great writing is long. And there are tools that will help new words stick in our brains that also fit into our device-centric lives.

“It’s important, especially for students, to know that vocabulary is something that is living, that is constantly all around them, that literacy doesn’t consist of a particular canon of books,” says Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Vocabulary.com, which debuted an addictive word-learning app for iPhones this week. “You can take any text, whether it’s a movie script or the lyrics of a song, and pull out the vocab words.”

So in honor of National Reading Month, and in recognition of modern attention spans, here are nine examples of things that are not big, important books and can be read in nine minutes or less (though some are admittedly pushing the average word-per-minute rates). Along with each excerpt is a worthy vocab word with context from Vocabulary.com, which aims to explain words like a good teacher would.

1. A short story: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber, written in 1939 (and turned into a Ben Stiller movie in 2013), about a man with an imagination

“A woman’s scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty’s arms. The District Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin. “You miserable cur!” . . . ‘Puppy biscuit,’ said Walter Mitty. He stopped walking and the buildings of Waterbury rose up out of the misty courtroom and surrounded him again. A woman who was passing laughed. ‘He said “Puppy biscuit,”’ she said to her companion. ‘That man said ‘Puppy biscuit’ to himself.’”

bedlam (n.): a scene of madness, chaos or great confusion. The term bedlam comes from the name of a hospital in London, “Saint Mary of Bethlehem,” which was devoted to treating the mentally ill in the 1400s. Over time, the pronunciation of “Bethlehem” morphed into bedlam and the term came to be applied to any situation where pandemonium prevails.

2. Song lyrics: “Hurricane,” by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy, a protest song about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out, “My God, they killed them all!”
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

hurricane (n.): a severe tropical storm with high winds and heavy rain. When a hurricane comes through your town, you should board up the windows and stay inside. Hurricanes have sustained winds that rotate in a circle, which is why they are often referred to as cyclones.

3. A list of rules: The Art of Courtly Love, by Andreas Cappelanus, contains this set of rules about love, dating to the 12th century

8. No one should be deprived of love without a valid reason.
9. No one can love who is not driven to do so by the power of love.
10. Love always departs from the dwelling place of avarice.
11. It is not proper to love one whom one would be ashamed to marry.
12. The true lover never desires the embraces of any save his lover.
13. Love rarely lasts when it is revealed.

avarice (n.): avarice is a fancy word for good old-fashioned greed. Do you want more and more money? Or cookies? Or anything? Then your heart is full of avarice. When people talk about greed, it’s clearly not a good thing, but avarice has an even worse flavor to it.

4. An essay: “The Peace The Bomb,” written by author James Agee at the end of World War II

Even as men saluted the greatest and most grimly Pyrrhic of victories in all the gratitude and good spirit they could muster, they recognized that the discovery which had done most to end the worst of wars might also, quite conceivably, end all wars–if only man could learn its control and use. The promise of good and of evil bordered alike on the infinite.

pyrrhic (adj): Use the adjective pyrrhic to describe a victory that is won, but at too great a cost. The word pyrrhic comes from the Greek general, Pyrrhus, who defeated the Romans at the Battle of Asculum but lost so many troops that he couldn’t defeat Rome itself.

5. A children’s poem: “Sick,” by Shel Silverstein, chronicles a young lady’s attempt to get out of going to school, with a surprising ending

I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?

gash (n.): a gash is a deep cut, like a gash on your knee from a biking accident, or a gash in the earth caused by workers who are digging up a broken sewer. The noun gash describes a wound or cut, so it makes sense that as a verb, gash describes the act of making that wound or cut.

6. An adult’s poem: “Their Lonely Betters,” a poem by W.H. Auden from 1950, explains why people talk and plants do not

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

responsibility (n): responsibility is something you’re required to do as an upstanding member of a community. Responsibility comes from the Latin responsus, which means “to respond.” It can be another word for trustworthiness, and it can be used to describe the social force that motivates us to take on individual responsibilities.

7. Lessons: For years, Esquire has been asking great people what they have learned and summing up their wisdom, like a 2011 piece investigating the mind of George Clooney

Here’s the thing: We used to lead the world in making things. But we stopped making things. We don’t make anything anymore. I miss that. Hollywood still makes things. We still export a couple billion dollars’ worth of product overseas. Original, new product. Some people might not agree that it’s original or new, but basically it is. There aren’t a whole lot of industries that are exporting things right now — big time with big money. We spent about twenty years making money off of making money. And that’s a very dangerous place to exist.

export (v.): to export something is to move it from its current location to a different territory. The verb export comes from the Latin word exportare which means “to carry out” or “send away.” To export something is to move it across borders.

8. A commencement speech: Author David Foster Wallace, now deceased, gave a speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College in 2005

Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull-value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.

prosperous (adj.): If you have a new car and some flashy new shoes, then you could be described as prosperous, meaning you have material success that seems like it will continue to grow. The adjective prosperous often describes a person or a person’s future, but it can apply to anything that’s experiencing growth and success. Prosperous derives from the Latin word prosperus, meaning “doing well.”

9. A children’s book: Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss lays out the somewhat brighter outlook for the future

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know. You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

dexterous (adj): If you’re dexterous, you’re good with your hands, but it can mean any skillful or clever physical movement. A kid’s dexterous ball handling and footwork can aid him on the soccer field. Dexterous can also be used to describe mental skill and agility — like the dexterous handling of an uncomfortable situation at work.

Or, perhaps, the dexterous handling leading a busy life and plugging in the little holes with great bits of reading.

Update: In addition to being an approachable dictionary and quiz machine, Vocabulary.com puts together lists of words to learn, based on everything from Don Draper lines in Mad Men to Lou Reed lyrics to historical documents. And now added to that is a list based on this very article.

This is an edition of Wednesday Words, a weekly feature on language. For the previous post, click here.

TIME Entertainment

Why Hollywood Desperately Needs Shailene Woodley

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 1
Lloyd Bishop—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Shailene Woodley on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on March 12, 2014

The 22-year-old Divergent star turns out to be the outspoken feminist role model we've been waiting for. Here's what she's had to say so far.

Shailene Woodley’s stock is about to skyrocket, which is a good thing because if the press tour for her new movie Divergent is any indication, she’s the feminist role model we’ve been waiting for in Hollywood.

Woodley is on the road to becoming a household name, thanks to starring roles in two upcoming film adaptations of wildly popular — but incredibly different — YA books. On Friday, the highly anticipated film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent hits theaters. And later this summer, Woodley will star as cancer patient Hazel in the big-screen version of fan favorite The Fault in Our Stars.

The up-and-coming star has made a point of speaking out about the issues she believes in, including the traditional constraints against women in Hollywood. And now that Jennifer Lawrence is considering taking a year off from Hollywood, we’re in desperate need of young female role models in the movie industry. Enter Shailene.

The parallels to Lawrence are obvious. Both spent time on family-friendly TV shows (TBS’ The Bill Engvall Show for Lawrence and ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager for Woodley) before making the leap to critically acclaimed indie films (an Oscar-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone for Lawrence and The Descendants with George Clooney for Woodley). Now both headline female-led franchises based on dystopian young adult novels: Divergent is already being called the next Hunger Games.

And the similarities don’t stop there. Both actresses chopped off their long locks for pixie cuts. They’re both bubbly, down-t0-earth, beautiful and effortlessly likable. (If you need proof, see the outdoor-loving, mason-jar-toting Woodley offer Jimmy Fallon a phallic horseradish.) Though Lionsgate President Erik Feig enlisted Lawrence to convince Woodley to sign on to the Divergent franchise and Woodley has since reached out to Lawrence for advice — all via email — the two starlets reportedly have not met. Their eventual, inevitable union will probably kill the Internet with an overload of memes.

But Woodley’s recent press tour has us thinking she’s more than just a J-Law clone. She has her own opinions about feminism and isn’t afraid to speak up. Here are the highlights:

On feminism in Divergent (The Daily Beast): “And in this movie, there’s no envy and no jealousy — no ridiculous girl-fights. It’s such an important message to send out there in this age of feminism because, yes, men need to respect women, and women need to be the leads of films, but at the same time, how do we expect men to respect women if women don’t respect women? A big theme in my life is sisterhood, and I think that this movie is a really great representation of that — of being there and supporting one-another without the malicious attacks that so often come in movies and media. So many women feel so much anger towards other women.”

On the anti-feminist messages of Twilight (Teen Vogue):Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. [The protagonist Bella] falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.”

On being single (Marie Claire): “I just haven’t met anyone where I was like, ‘Wow I could definitely see myself spending a season of my life with you.’ I don’t even know if humans are genetically made to be with one person forever.”

On love (The Hollywood Reporter): “I fall in love with human beings based on who they are, not based on what they do or what sex they are.”

Jaap Buitendijk—Summit EntertainmentShailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent

TIME got an early dose of Woodley’s real talk when she was promoting her indie flick The Spectacular Now this summer. In an interview with Spectacular Now co-star Miles Teller, Woodley told TIME’s Lily Rothman about her struggle against one of the literal constraints against women — the bra. (This portion of the Q&A was originally cut for space and never published.)

I noticed also on your Twitter feed that you seem to be a bit anti-bra. Is that something you’re passionate about?

I feel passionate about just shifting our paradigms and stirring things up. I’m wearing a bra now, not like a padded bra, a little sports thing, and I feel like it’s maybe important to start looking at things differently even if you don’t change the way that you do it. just look at it differently, just think about it differently, just question things that you never really questioned before. I think with that will come a lot of educated knowledge and a lot of curiosity and a lot of positive shift.

What else should we be looking at?

Lots of things. I think, number one, the food that we eat. The water that we drink. The products we put on our faces. It sort of seems like everything nowadays is dictated by advertisements, which I’m not a fan of. There’s this big push to be skinny, be tall, have a small waist. It’s almost like we’re obsessed with our prepubescent selves, we’re obsessed with like this need to have everything be flawless and everything be thin and that’s just not, especially for women – I’m a fan of hips and I’m a fan of breasts and a fan of owning your body and not feeling self-conscious because you have some fat. That’s sexy. Fat is sexy, to an extent. Being unhealthy is not optimal but I think it’s important to start owning ourselves.

Regardless of what you may think of Woodley’s throwback hippie brand of feminism, her message about loving one’s soul rather than one’s body is on point. If Woodley becomes a leading star in the Hollywood, as industry insiders are projecting, we can look forward to her sharing positive messages with her young fans.

TIME Entertainment

Anita Hill Has a Vision for the Future

Anita Poster
Samuel Goldwyn Films

It's been two decades since the nation began to talk about Anita Hill — and she has some thoughts on what we should talk about next

Anita Hill is back in the news — but this time, it’s because of a movie.

Hill, who first rose to national prominence in 1991 when she testified in the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of her former boss Clarence Thomas, alleging that Thomas had sexually harassed her, is now the subject of the documentary Anita (in theaters March 21). The film — by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock — has won raves at festivals, but the maelstrom of 23 years ago are still a touchy subject for the woman at its center. This week’s issue of TIME takes a look at why Hill decided to participate in the documentary.

The reasons are multifaceted — unsurprisingly, considering the controversial and complicated case that serves as the film’s subject. But one of them is not so difficult to parse: Hill’s testimony brought sexual harassment into the national conversation, and there it remains. People know what sexual harassment is and are willing to talking about it; in 1991, they weren’t. As Hill told TIME, she’s glad to see the work done by modern activists, who are also featured in the film — and though Anita isn’t strictly an advocacy film, it highlights the modern state of sexual harassment.

And that’s why Hill says she has some thoughts about what needs to happen next. Here’s what she said about her vision for the future:

I would like to say that I do have a vision. This really is Freida’s film and I didn’t have any kind of agreement in advance for what she could or could not do, and I didn’t try to design the film for her, because I knew she wouldn’t agree to it, because she’s a consummate professional — but I do have a vision.

It seems to me that we have lived with a generation or so of informing people what their rights are, and giving women and men the skills to come forward, to talk about what goes on, whether it’s sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace or any number of settings. My vision is not just that we can give people to skills to talk about these things and address them when they happen. My vision is that we change the culture so that you don’t go into a workplace assuming that these things will happen, that the culture is changed in a way so that when they do happen it’s a rarity and not the norm. That’s what I’m aiming for.

It’s good for people to know what to do, it’s good for people to have the skills, it’s good for us to raise our voices against it — but it would be better if we could envision a world where it no longer exists.

And that — even though Hill’s still a controversial figure — should be something everyone can get behind.

TIME feminism

How a Bunch of C-Words Got Into the Oxford English Dictionary

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This week's new additions to the historical catalog, including several that crudely refer to female genitalia and actually date back more than 800 years, highlight the power of old words

Note: If you don’t like to read the c-word, you should probably stop reading.

On the rare occasion that people think of lexicographers, they don’t usually imagine those scholars sitting around attempting to define the foulest words in the language. Yet that is part of the job, as one can see in the latest batch of additions to the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, which contains cunted, cunting, cuntish and cunty.

Part of the reason those words were made part of the historical catalog on Thursday is that they are more than foul things one is taught to never say in front of Grandma. They are firecrackers packed with gender and history—even if they just seem like vulgar derivatives of a vulgar word. Here is a bit of the backstory.

cunty (n.): adj. despicable; highly unpleasant; extremely annoying.

The word cunt, which more literally refers to female genitals, dates back to the 1200s. In the Middle Ages, English speakers were less squeamish about obscene language because they had much less privacy and therefore less shame about things like sex and body parts. So the c-word probably wouldn’t have raised too many Black Death-plagued eyebrows. It was even used in surnames at the time, like Clawecuncte.

Today, things are obviously different. In her boldly titled book, Inga Muscio opens by saying that the c-word is “arguably the most powerful negative word in the American English language …. [and] refers almost exclusively to women.” She’s wrong about the latter; the word, especially when used in the United Kingdom, often refers to men or is a gender-neutral slur. But most people would probably agree that calling someone “cunty” is one of the ruder things you could do at the American dinner table.

Love it or hate it, that gives the word and its derivatives a lot of power, which is part of the reason that some feminists have tried to reclaim it as a symbol of “the innate power of the sex organ it names,” as author Betty Dodson wrote. She finds it preferable to its generally inoffensive cousin, vagina, because that word is derived from the Latin term for sheath or scabbard, suggesting that a lady is nothing more than a holder for the all-important sword.

TIME Entertainment

Behind Bestie: What We Learn About Gender From New Dictionary Additions

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A dictionary update is just a list of words. It's also a testament to who English-speakers are and how we see ourselves

This week, the Oxford English Dictionary made the most exciting announcement a dictionary can: new words had been weighed, measured and added to the historical catalog.

On the surface, it might seem like just a list of new entries and sub-entries. But words that have been around long enough to get into the OED pack more context than meets the eye. And some in this addition have an obvious theme: women. You know, those people who craft language and use language in powerful ways, even when they don’t know it.

Here are three new word entries in the OED and a few things they can teach us about how culture and language collide.

bestie (n.): a person’s best friend; a very close friend.

It would be unsurprising to hear a teenage girl use this cutesy word to describe her very best friend in the whole wide world. What might be surprising is what a profound effect that young women have on the English language. “There is increasingly more recognition for the role that young women play in creating and disseminating slang,” says Katherine Martin, Oxford’s head of U.S. dictionaries. “Women are huge innovators.” Even if those innovations are ending statements like they’re, like, questions.

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people,” Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times for an article about the vocal fry, or creaky voice. “And women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average.” That is perhaps why a study published in December showed that more California men are just now starting to use “uptalk,” that mock-able Valley Girl style.

heroine-worship (v.): to admire (a woman one views as a heroine) intensely, excessively, or uncritically.

The first thing this entry probably reminds you of is hero worship, a term that has been in the OED since 1857. “One thing you see a lot when we’re revising is the addition of the female version of something we already have the male version of,” says Martin. It also goes both ways, like when a term such as love god is added after love goddess.

The heroine/hero pair, Martin says, is one of many in which women can fall into either category and men can only fall into one: “A hero can be a woman, whereas a heroine can’t be a man, and that’s a really common thing.” Like actor/actress, there is a male form that is viewed as fairly gender neutral and a feminized form. The interesting part comes when people decide which one to use—and why they make that decision, like a female who rejects actress because she feels actor makes her sound like a more serious thespian.

“It’s a late 21st century phenomenon to think that anything that is gender-restricted to women is somehow lesser and so, then, to oppose that. That’s where this preference for gender-neutral terminology comes from,” Martin says. “But if we dislike the feminized terms, does that mean that in some way we are buying into the concept that the feminine is less-than?” With that in mind, a woman might prefer to be worshipped as a heroine than a hero, viewing it a word through which she can proudly own being a woman.

dead white male (n.): a dead Caucasian male writer, philosopher, etc., whose pre-eminence, esp. in academic study, is challenged as disproportionate to his cultural significance, and attributed to a historical bias towards his gender and ethnic group.

The argument inherent in this dismissive term is that there has been too much focus on the things dead white men have done or said or written, especially in academia. If one felt that Herman Melville’s genius was overblown, for instance, one might refer to Moby Dick as “a big fat book by a dead white male about a big fat white sea mammal.”

“It fits into the 1970s to the present awareness of gender issues and a critique of how we use language and what we study,” says Martin; its a word that “identifies the fact that, historically, the work of white European males has been privileged over the work of other people.” The really notable detail about this entry, she says, is that the editors decided to include it. Niche ideas discussed by a few people have no place in the dictionary: “When things go in the OED, it tends to be because they’ve been around for so long that it’s now a concept we’ve actually adopted widely.”

That is to say, the very fact of its inclusion in the OED means a lot of people believe—or have at least discussed the possibility—that dead white men get too much attention. Such is the power of a dictionary update, on its face just a mostly boring list of 900 words.

(Speaking of updates and things that are not boring, one particularly female–and typically vulgar–word referring to a woman’s anatomy got a little more space in this year’s dictionary when variations of the C-word were added. Here’s a brief history of that particular term.)

TIME Entertainment

Twilight Sends Girls a Bad Message Says Divergent Star Shailene Woodley

"Divergent" Chicago Screening
Raymond Boyd—Getty Images Actress Shailene Woodley poses for photos on the red carpet for the "Divergent" screening at Kerasotes Showplace ICON on March 4, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois

Bella shouldn't give up everything for a guy, the actress says

Teen ‘It’ girl of the moment Shailene Woodley is no fan of Twilight.

The 22-year-old star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and the critically-acclaimed film, The Descendants, is on the precipice of teen fiction superstardom: she has the lead role in Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, both based on popular young adult novels and both due out this year.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Woodley criticized the uber-popular YA series, Twilight. Though many have praised the book for its emphasis on love rather than sex—the couple famously waits until marriage to consumate the relationship—Woodley thinks the relationship sends a bad message. The young star calls out the series for glorifying Bella’s decision to give up everything for a guy:

Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. [The protagonist Bella] falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.”

The upcoming Divergent, which has been compared to The Hunger Games in the girl power discussion, focuses on a young girl on her journey to overthrow a totalitarian regime. Keep the empowered heroines coming!

TIME Entertainment

Lena Dunham Has a Point: New Research Documents Hollywood’s Sexism

Lena Dunham Keynote And Greenroom Photo Op - 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival
Hutton Supancic—Getty Images Lena Dunham speaks onstage at the Lena Dunham Keynote during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

In the Year of Frozen, Gravity and The Hunger Games, just 30% of all speaking roles belonged to women, according to a new study

This week, in her keynote address at Austin’s SXSW film festival, Lena Dunham called on Hollywood to change the way it sees women noting that Adam Driver—her male co-star on Girls, the hit HBO series she writes and directs—has been offered a range of substantive and diverse parts in films by notable directors like the Coen brothers. Meanwhile, the four women on the show have had much slimmer and more stereotypical pickings. “There’s just no place for me in the studio system,” she said, while vowing to keep trying to change things.

Sadly, Dunham might just be right about the system.

A new study, published Tuesday, backs up the young director’s complaint. Researchers calculated just how sexist Hollywood still is and the results are depressing: women accounted for only 15 percent of protagonists, 29 percent of major characters and 30 percent of all speaking characters last year, according to a report titled “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films for 2013″ from San Diego State University.

Some more shocking statistics from the study:

  • Only 13 percent of the top 100 films featured an equal number of major male and female characters
  • The majority of female characters were in their 20s and 30s, whereas the majority of male characters were in their 30s and 40s
  • Male characters were more likely to have work-related goals than personal life-related goals (75/25), but women were split evenly between the two ambitions (48/52)

In 11 years, female characters have made little progress onscreen. In fact, things have gotten worse. In 2002, 16 percent of protagonists were female. In 2011, 11 percent of protagonists were female. Last year, it bounced back to 15 percent.

And even when movies nominally have male and female co-leads, that doesn’t mean women get as much screen time. Cinemetrics data published in the New York Times on Feb. 27 found that men get double the screen time of women overall. A good example is the ensemble cast for American Hustle: “Christian Bale actually has 60 minutes of screen to Amy Adams’s 46 minutes, a significant difference even in an ensemble movie. Among their supporting category counterparts, Bradley Cooper’s 41 screen minutes double Jennifer Lawrence’s 20.”

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

A lot of this has to do, of course, with the fact that there are even fewer women behind the cameras than in front of them. In another report from San Diego State entitled “The Celluloid Ceiling” and published this year, researchers found that only 16 percent of those in director, writer, producer and editor roles were women — one percentage point lower than in 1998.

And though Hollywood may not care about the dearth of female writers and directors, you would think that the industry would be worried about leaving money on the table. Films like Gravity, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen were among this year’s biggest international blockbusters. Most box office analysts will tell you that Hollywood is losing money by not appealing to half of their moviegoers and rather relying on the old adage that women will go see films by and for men, but men will not see films by and for women. (Women buy 50 percent of movie tickets, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.)

Data that disproves this theory, like box office hits with female leads, are considered flukes. One only needs to look at this year’s Oscars montage of “heroes,” which included only seven women out of dozens of characters shown, to see that Hollywood has a short-term memory when it comes to women. What about Thelma and Louise? Hermione? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Lara Croft?

What’s a female film fan to do? “As moviegoers, women can vote with their dollars,” says Martha M. Lauzeen, the executive director at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University who led the study. “They can support films with female protagonists. And if they can go to see those films opening weekend, that’s great. That’s really helpful.”

But there seems to be an irrational sexism at the root of Hollywood that resists economic logic.

“I think people believe that Hollywood just responds to dollars and that all of the decision-making that goes on in that community is rational. And it’s not,” explains Lauzeen. She says Hollywood is willing to gamble on a new idea or unproven talent, just not on women. She points to the studios willing to make the investment in Mark Web who only directed a single feature—the romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer—before taking the helm of the Amazing Spider-Man franchise. “It’s interesting that they would be willing to take a risk on someone like that but not on a female director. But a lot of it has to do with the fact that they are a lot more comfortable with him because he looks like, demographically, the people who are making the decisions.”

In the end, it’s going to have to take a concerted effort to diversify the studios. “They’re going to have to recognize that this is a problem and label it as such. If you don’t see something as a problem, you’re not going to fix it. And my perception is that they do not necessarily see women’s underemployment behind the scenes and women’s underrepresentation onscreen as a problem.”


Indeed, some moviegoers might even be surprised to hear women are still underrepresented in film, given the success of movies like The Hunger Games. High-profile hits overshadow the larger problem. “The same thing happened a few years ago when Catherine Bigelow won the Oscar for best director. People said things must be okay now for female directors. And that was not the case.”

And big hits featuring heroines don’t necessarily mean that the status quo is changing. Three years ago, critics, writers and bloggers conjectured that the “Bridesmaids effect” would pave the way for raunchy, female-driven comedies that could appeal to both sexes, like Kristin Wiig’s breakthrough hit. And though The Heat, a female buddy film starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as cops, was a hit this past summer, the Bridesmaids revolution has yet to come. The upcoming Divergent offers some hope that female heroines won’t sizzle after The Hunger Games wraps up, but audiences shouldn’t hold their breath.

The same holds true, of course, for other kinds of diversity onscreen. The study also shows that various races of women (and Asian women especially) are still grossly underrepresented in movies. (The percentage of Asian female characters actually dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent between 2011 and 2013.) “Media images tell us who matters in society,” Lauzeen says. “If certain groups are routinely omitted in those messages, it suggests that people in that group aren’t important.”

TIME feminism

An Ode to Mad Men’s Peggy Olson: TV’s Most Relatable Feminist

Cass Bird—New York Magazine Elisabeth Moss on the cover of New York Magazine

A New York Magazine profile on Elisabeth Moss reminds us why Peggy Olson is TV's most relatable feminist

Over the last five seasons of Mad Men, we have watched Elisabeth Moss’ Peggy Olson go from apologizing to Don Draper to sitting in his chair. Surprised by her initial success as a copywriter, Peggy slowly grew into her talent, eventually realizing that Don’s approval wasn’t everything and demanding that she be respected for her work. More than any other character on the show, Peggy has grown and changed, and on April 13—when the seventh and final season premieres—she will adjust to finally being in a position of real power.

In this week’s New York Magazine cover story on actress Elisabeth Moss, Willa Paskin teases that this final season of Mad Men will be as much about Peggy as it will be about Don. She posits that Peggy, after all, has been the secret protagonist of the show all along. And while Mad Men has quickly addressed and then dismissed many issues of the 1960s—from race relations to hippies—it has consistently addressed the issue of feminism through Peggy and Joan’s struggle to move up the corporate ladder.

And of the two, Peggy has become the feminist icon, working tirelessly for her spot at the top. Long before Lean In hit bookshelves, Peggy was already demonstrating its principles, for better or worse. Paskin writes of Peggy:

TV has many ambitious women, but Peggy stands out among them for navigating a working world—with glass ceilings, boys’ clubs, and take-me-seriously work clothes—that feels, despite its period detail, remarkably contemporary. Peggy is “the one we relate to, the one that’s us,” Moss says, and the legions of essays and blog posts and tweets celebrating her extraordinary ability to lean in are proof of her connection to the audience. (Peggy Olson is easily the most GIF-ed feminist icon of all time.)”

But why is Peggy so damn relatable? Maybe it’s because she’s crusading for a different kind of feminism than we would expect in her 1960s setting. When the fifth season of Mad Men began last year, Elisabeth Moss told Vulture:

[Peggy] is not going to be a hippie, she’s not gonna start burning bras. She’s a different kind of feminist. She’s the one who works really hard, and concentrates on her job, and wants to move up in the world of her business. And her progressiveness and her brand of feminism — it comes in probably a bit of a more realistic way, you know? Those were the women — there were more of those women than were the hippies who burned bras and picketed. Those women were the ones who were actually, you know, going in and asking for equal pay, and asking for equal rights, and demanding to be treated better in the workplace. That’s who she is.”

Relatablity is the key. Watching Peggy, working women see their own fight for respect in the office. She works twice as hard as her boozy compatriots. She’s beautiful in the girl-next-door kind of way, but refuses to use her looks as a means of advancement like her colleague Joan is wont to do. She makes mistakes: she’s stubborn; she falls in love with her boss; she sometimes doesn’t play nicely. And slowly but surely her confidence grows until she can challenge her own mentor.

But she’s also a little bit unlikable. She takes things more seriously than her colleagues. She turns off her superiors and clients by sticking to her ideas and refusing to woo them with sex appeal. She doesn’t have the best taste in guys: she’s had affairs with three coworkers and dated some real schlubs. Rather than struggling with splitting the burdens of work and family—a favorite topic among today’s feminists—she simply denies and then forgets that she’s had a child, choosing to forge ahead with her career instead.

o Credit: Jessica Brooks/AMC
Jessica Brooks—AMC

But her beauty lies in her refusal to fit into a box. Sure, her clothes have gotten better, and she’s gotten more adventurous. But she’s definitively not the girl Joan or Don or anyone else wanted her to be. She’s a testament to the fact that you don’t have to lean in or out, be less bossy or more bossy, be charming or asexual. You can just be the best you.

While the struggle to go from disposable secretary to young powerhouse may not be as daunting as it was in the Mad Men era, it’s no cakewalk nowadays either. As Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chávez pointed out in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, ambitious women today are as likely to be dubbed by underlings and colleagues as “bossy” as Peggy is on the show. Her struggle is our struggle.

And just as Peggy inspired Mad Men’s audience, she surely also inspired other shows to write in strong female characters who are good at their jobs. Before there was Virginia on Masters of Sex or Elizabeth on The Americans or even Moss’ detective on Top of the Lake, there was Peggy.

So yes, of course Peggy has been the secret star of Mad Men all along, a hero to Don’s anti-hero—his better half.

Watch her evolution in this great video, curtesy of Vulture, from 2013.

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