Antedating of Plot "Spoiler"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Dec 13 00:07:32 UTC 2009

The OED's earliest citation for _spoiler_, in the sense of a revelation of an ending or plot detail of a book or story or movie, is dated 1981.

The April 1971 issue of the National Lampoon included an article entitled "Spoilers," written by Doug Kenney and using the word in the above sense.  I recall this article as a very memorable one (you could have a lifetime of reading and moviegoing ruined by letting your eyes stray too much through this article before you realized its nefariousness, since it gave away the ending of virtually all important works with notable endings); perhaps it is responsible for spreading this word-usage?

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

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