fashionista coinage

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Fri May 24 20:03:19 UTC 2013

I have borrowed the Trinity College Dublin copy of R. W. Conway-Jones, Vague: Violet Pea, a Fashionista, apparently one of the few library copies in the world.  The book is not dated.  It says something in the back about "copyright 1992 ... First published in England by 'The Most Beautiful House in the World' publishing, as a hand rendered novel in 1992," but the copy I have may well have been published some years after that (the library stamp in the front is dated 2001) and I see no way to be at all confident about assigning a 1992 date to it.  Stephen Fried's 1993 usage of "fashionista" should still be considered the first use, in my opinion.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Shapiro, Fred [fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Friday, May 17, 2013 10:08 AM
Subject: Re: fashionista coinage

I am having the 1992 book shipped to me on interlibrary loan from Trinity College Dublin.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Saturday, May 04, 2013 12:29 PM
Subject: fashionista coinage

LH mentioned the word fashionista yesterday.

On April 17 The Atlantic website published an article about the
coinage of the word fashionista.

Title: I Apologize for Inventing the Word 'Fashionista' 20 Years Ago
Author: Stephen Fried

[Begin excerpt]
Twenty years ago, I apparently changed language forever. I published a
book that unleashed upon an unsuspecting public a single word of
terrifying power and controversy. That word is "fashionista."
. . .
Fashionista first appeared on page 100 of my 1993 book Thing of
Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia. I created it because as I was
writing about the fashion industry - and young model Gia Carangi's
immersion in it - there was no simple way to refer to all the people
at a sitting for a magazine photo or print ad.
[End excerpt]

Barry Popik saw this article, and he also found an intriguing entry in
the WorldCat database that suggested the neologism fashionista might
have been used in the title of a book in 1992:

Vague : Violet Pea, a fashionista: a girl with her own take on fashion
Author: R William Conway
Publisher: London : Most Beautiful House in the World, 1992.
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English

Barry sent news of his excellent find to several people on April 21.
OED's Editor-At –Large, Jesse, has been notified. An examination of
the book in paper form may help to confirm or contradict the data in
WorldCat. The volume is held by a handful of libraries including one
at the University of Oxford according to WorldCat

Here is Barry's website entry on fashionista:

Below is an edited version of the reply I sent to Barry on April 22:

The data given for the publisher of the book " Vague : Violet Pea, a
fashionista" is odd: "England : Most Beautiful House in the World".
Perhaps the book was self-published. Very few catalogs have the work
listed. Trove: The National Library of Australia has a listing. Here
is the link:

There is a website that appears to be controlled by Richard
Conway-Jones and this seems to be the person who wrote the book
containing the word. The website lists a telephone number and an email
address to contact. (You can double-check to see if you think this is
the right person.) I do not know the currency of the contact data.
Perhaps Conway-Jones can be emailed and asked about his use of the
word "fashionista":

The website says: "His novels poetry and memoirs are now all available
from". When I followed the link to lulu and search for
Richard Conway-Jones I found a book which combines four of his novels.
One of the novels is titled "vague" and that is the name of the target
book with "fashionista" in the title. I do not know if it is in the
text. Maybe it was added to the title later.

the novels of richard conway-jones By richard conway-jones
eBook (PDF): $0.99
the first four novels by the author and muscian and painter richard conway-jones
the beautiful people
the fakes progress
aimes tu baroque?


On Fri, May 3, 2013 at 7:37 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      =?windows-1252?Q?Re=3A_=5Fcamerista=5F_OED=3A_=22No_dictionary_e?
>               = =?windows-1252?Q?ntries_found_for_=91camerista=92=2E=22?=
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On May 3, 2013, at 6:28 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Aug. 30, 1862, the Times of London commented, “America swarms with the
>> members of the mighty tribe of
>> cameristas,
>> and the civil war has developed their business in the same way that it has
>> given an impetus to the manufacturers of metallic air-tight coffins and
>> embalmers of the dead.”
>> Of course, an examination of the actual newspaper may reveal a different
>> reading, but, WTF?
>> Youneverknow.
>> "Apropos of nothing," to reprise a once-common phrase, I'd been under the
>> impression that _barista_ was the the first and only -ista word in English
>> that had ever appeared in the popular press.
> The OED's cites for "fashionista" include a couple from the mid-90s from such periodicals as "Time Out N.Y." and "Entertainment Weekly", and my impression is that it's been around fairly steadily since.  No doubt "Sandinista" played a role, as I'm sure has been hypothesized here.   But that civil war took place somewhat later than the one raging in 1862.
> LH
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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