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Originally published June 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 1, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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New dictionary is a trip

Here's a delicious addition to your reference desk: "Brave New Words: the Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction," edited by Jeff Prucher...

Here's a delicious addition to your reference desk: "Brave New Words: the Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction," edited by Jeff Prucher, introduction by Gene Wolfe (OxfordUniversityPress,$29.95).In his introduction, Wolfe notes how many terms coined by science-fiction writers have been gobbled up by the mainstream, though popular users can bend their original meaning.

Take space cadet, "a juvenile spaceman or spacewoman, or one in training." The dictionary's first citation for this term is "Space Cadet," a 1948 novel by Robert Heinlein. By 1952, Newsweek is referring to test pilot "Tex" Johnston as resembling a "space cadet in the new high-altitude helmet and suit designed to protect pilots in the upper air."

But by the '70s, the term had morphed (another useful sci-fi term) into a different meaning: "someone who appears to be out of touch with reality, as if on drugs."

Other terms have remained true to their essential nature: Lunarian, "an inhabitant of the Earth's moon," was used as early as 1708 by the Brits. In 1997, it was still cropping up in a story by Poul Anderson, "Harvest the Fire." That's a pretty good run for a presumably nonexistent critter.

Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times book editor

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