Prepper communes

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Jan 31 03:54:52 UTC 2013

On Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 10:20 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
> Has "prepper" been on any recent WOTY list? I have no idea how old the
> term is. With the explosion of information on "prepper commune" ("The
> Citadel"), I was wondering if this is a "teabagger" type term that's
> gone from inept self-description to mocking  -er. It certainly appears
> that the term has been in use among survivalists for some time:
> > Welcome to the Survival Forums.
> > This site is for the discussion of Survival, Preparedness, Preppers,
> > Survival Food, Survival Kits, SHTF, Survivalist, Homesteading, and more

See my Dec. 30 Boston Globe column on prepper lingo:

I note that "prepper" first emerged in online forums in the runup to Y2K. A
couple of early examples:

1999 May 22 "aeternum" (Usenet newsgroup) From my
experience, those preparing for Y2K tend to be, as a group, amongst the most
independent and self-aware people in our society. ... You could of course say
that the "preppers" are all lying. I don't think that is true, however.
1999 Nov 29 David Krough _Zone2000.com_ While some feel the Y2K bug has been
overhyped, Whipple explains that he
tries to keep the site neutral to get
the most unbiased reporting from the
writers. This ain't the
Charmin-squeezing Mr. Whipple either. "I'm a 'prepper'," he
explains. "I
think it has the potential to be a real mess 
 but more of a
problem than machines, and the government's reaction to any of it."

In the column, I talk about how the term has "gone from inept self-description
to mocking -er," as you put it.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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