Book reveals how Roosevelt coined 'cheerleader' and Lincoln is credited with 'cool'

But Harding’s phrase wasn’t Dickson’s most surprising discovery — that one belongs to the nation’s 16th president. “Finding that Abraham Lincoln was the first one to use the word ‘cool,’ meaning, ‘Hey, that’s cool! That’s really something.’ ‘Cool’ meaning ‘wow,’ ” Dickson enthusiastically exclaims.

ADVERTISEMENT
Out of all the presidents, Thomas Jefferson takes the cake for adding the most words to the American lexicon: the Oxford English Dictionary credits him with 114 terms in all — a fact that the Declaration of Independence’s chief author would likely delight in.

“One of the words Jefferson created was ‘belittle.’ A lot of the early patriots, they created words almost to thumb their noses at the British; they were acts of defiance,” explains Dickson.

“The Americans, led by people like Noah Webster and others, were of the opinion that America would create its own language. Jefferson actually takes a position that it’s proper to neologize, that we’re supposed to make up new words.”

Dickson, who has coined two terms of his own (those would be “word word” and “demonym,” in case you're wondering), says of his book, “There’s nothing more fascinating than to realize that our presidents in particular helped to create a language that’s really an American language. We’ve created our own sort of way of marking the territory and marking who we are.”

Dickson will be signing and discussing Words From the White House on Jan. 15 at the National Press Club. He’ll also be doing Q-and-A and signing events on Jan. 19 at the Politics and Prose bookstore and on Feb. 12 at the Library of Congress.