When a man apologizes for inventing a word that you didn't know he invented until you read his apology for inventing it, you have to assume that his apology is not quite sincere. But I guess it's easier to pitch and publish an article with the headline, "I Apologize for Inventing the Word 'Fashionista' 20 Years Ago" than one titled, "I Am Proud of Myself for Inventing the Now-Commonly Used Word 'Fashionista.' Please Recognize My Contribution to the English Language. The OED Entry Was Not Enough."
Stephen Fried is the author of, among other things, Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of the Supermodel Gia, which tells the story of Gia Carangi, a model who was quite active in the late Seventies/early Eighties (she was Vogue's August 1980 cover girl) until she developed a heroin addiction, contracted HIV and died from AIDS.
He claims that, despite his wife's objections to the neologism, he first used the word "fashionista" four times in his 1993 biography of the late supermodel. The first time The New York Times printed "fashionista," it was in a review of Fried's book; the critic, a fashion editor named Carol Kramer, called it a "corny label."
Nothing really happened for five years but THEN, in a dramatic twist to this exciting and suspenseful story, in 1998 HBO decided to make a movie based on Gia's life, casting Angelina Jolie as the supermodel. BAM. According to Fried, the word "fashionista" was used over 200 times in newspapers the following year, before being inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary, the uncontested authority on the English language. (The official OED definition, for your time: "A person employed in the creation or promotion of high fashion, such as a designer, photographer, model, fashion writer, etc. Also: a devotee of the fashion industry; a wearer of high-fashion clothing.")
"I suppose I should apologize to all users of language for my crime against nomenclature," writes Fried, but then he never actually does, choosing instead to chronicle how the word became ubiquitous. The real takeaway of this article is: Fried desperately wants credit for inventing the word "fashionista" which no one would ever use today if it hadn't been popularized by Angelina Jolie.
Image via Tony Forte/WENN