March 14, 2017

"What Is the Most Significant Fad of All Time?"

Some excellent answers at this link (and one dumb one), but come up with your own answer before getting your channels of memory blocked up by seeing other people's answers. And don't read the next paragraph until you've done your own thinking.

One problem is defining "fad" — and that's complicated by seeing the word significant. It seems to me that a "fad" ought to be sort of insignificant. Otherwise the answer could be: War. Or: Religion. Or: Romantic love. If you take a narrow view of "fad" and restrict the category to things that really don't matter, you may go straight to the obvious American answers: the hula hoop, pet rocks, Cabbage Patch Dolls. I think it would be best to get somewhere in the middle, like 2 of the answers at the link: cigarettes and rock and roll.

Here's the OED definition for fad: "A crotchety rule of action; a peculiar notion as to the right way of doing something; a pet project, esp. of social or political reform, to which exaggerated importance is attributed; in wider sense, a crotchet, hobby, ‘craze.'" Hmm. Seems to exclude the things I put in the narrowest definition.

141 comments:

Big Mike said...

The hula hoop. Followed closely by Cabbage Patch Kids.

Big Mike said...

(I never did fall for the Pet Rock.)

rhhardin said...

TV.

John said...

"A crotchety rule of action; a peculiar notion as to the right way of doing something; a pet project, esp. of social or political reform, to which exaggerated importance is attributed;..."

Obamacare?

Browndog said...

Hippies.

Far out.

Bay Area Guy said...

I got this.

Casual sex -- detached from marriage or love.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing though!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Hula hoop FTW. Though the Pet Rock comes in a close second.

Virgil Hilts said...

Having full time house help from the less economically fortunate. My mother's family was middle class and had full time house help and I still think this would make economic sense today, but for some reason it seems to have gone out of fashion around the 1960s (I think that hideous show Hazel with Shirley Booth may have had something to do with it).

William said...

I'm reading the biography of Walter Winchell. He would have described the twist as a fadulous dance. The waltz, the tango, and the polka had better legs.......Winchell was something of a fad. He was both a creator and creature of the zeitgeist, Neil Gabler's fine biography was written in 1994. The embers of Winchell's celebrity were still warm then. Now Winchell is almost forgotten. It doesn't take long nowadays to achieve Ozymandias status.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

For the record, I didn't read prior comments before posting mine. Though now that I have, it seems to me that Cabbage Patch dolls ought to have been in there somewhere. They were after my time; my time was Baby Alive (hey! it actually poops!), and back then I totally wanted one.

traditionalguy said...

Virginia Slims, mood rings, 8 track tape, Disco Dancing, Never gonna Give You Up, Polyester Suits...

Kate said...

My first thought was "The Beatles". Maybe I'm conflating fab with fad.

My second thought was powdered wigs.

madAsHell said...

Blogging!! Of course!!

DavidD said...

To me, "significant fad" means "something that was called a fad but that turned out to be significant."

Rock and roll.

Hands down.

" 'guitar groups are on the way out' "

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles%27_Decca_audition

Sally327 said...

It probably depends on one's age but I would got with EST. And prosperity gospel.

Rob said...

Monogamy.

Pettifogger said...

I perhaps dwelled too much on the word "significant" and my mind came up with tulip mania.

tcrosse said...

Folk Music

sojerofgod said...

Well now are we going to conflate fad with fashion?
Beaver hats were all the rage for 20 years in London, and helped spur exploration of the American West.
Ostrich feathers were the bomb in the early 1900's. until the Great War made that impractical.
Fedoras anyone?

My point that the line is somewhat blurred here. Perhaps the Pet Rock qualifies in a way that peace symbol necklaces don't.

Susan said...

Blue jeans. Once a Fad worn only by teens now so ubiquitous no one remembers they were once a fad.

Paul Kirchner said...

Sagging: the practice of wearing one's pants beneath one's bottom. This fad has been going on for at least 20, perhaps 25, years, and astonishingly long tenure for an idiotic and --one would imagine--impractical fad.

Henry said...

Tattoos
Piercings
Shaving
Pants

MadisonMan said...

Beanie Babies. Click Clacks. Maybe not the latter.

Were Jarts a fad? :)

John Scott said...

Skateboarding.

dustbunny said...

Beatlemania rather than just the Beatles. It brought with it other bands, fashion and intense interest in previously ignored areas(at least to American teens) such as Liverpool and Carnaby St.basicly anything British.

Paddy O said...

Ties.

Henry said...

Agriculture

robother said...

Clothes. No more thick body hair (except a few throwbacks you see at the beach). Every fashionable fad of the last 10,000 years owes its existence to the person that invented clothes. And each generation has gotten more and more frivolous, fad obsessed.

Paddy O said...

guitars

Steve said...

Shooting the longbow was fashionable in England in the early 1500s. People would get together and have shooting parties and contests. The legend of Robin Hood refers to on such competition. England won the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 based upon the strength of their archers. These archers trained for those parties as much as they trained for war.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Paddy O said...

Pants/slacks/trousers(not as opposed to nakedness in contrast with something like a toga).

Michael K said...

Gay marriage.

This was a reaction to the AIDS epidemic and an attempt to modify the risky behavior by gay men. In fact, it has had little effect on promiscuity and most gay "marriages" are described as "open" by gays.

Henry said...

Pointy shoes. This one is for real, and spans time and cultures.

Kirby Olson said...

Virtue signaling.

Henry said...

Pointy shoes

Pointy boots

Bad Lieutenant said...

Speech.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Marxism. The marxists would retort liberalism. Conservatism could be described as a permanent fad, by which I mean to suggest the opposite of conservatism being static.

Blogging could also be nominated. And email, which I think/hope is on the way out.

buwaya puti said...

Romanticism
Definitely a fad.
Paul Johnson, "Birth of the Modern"

rcocean said...

Pet Rocks and Rubick Cubes

'Cause those the two fads I remember.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

The hula hoop, bell bottom pants, and climate change.

BudBrown said...

Disney Land

Luke Lea said...

Of all time? That covers a lot of territory. That means it had to last a long time and involve a lot of people. So I will go with Chinese footbinding.

Michael K said...

"Cliff's daughter Jill was about Pete's age..."

My father gave away Jill at her wedding.

I was pretty young when he died. He died of a pulmonary embolus during a hospital stay for a kidney stone.

I did not know any of his family.

Michael K said...

I didn't mention lesbians and the gay marriage issue. They are not as promiscuous although spousal abuse is pretty common among lesbian couples. I don't know the figures on duration of their marriages.

I have had to tell a few gay men they had AIDS during the early days when it was a death sentence and before they told me it could not be true because they were in a "committed relationship."

n.n said...

Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Cooling

Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming

Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change

Catastrophic Anthropogenic Immigration Reform

Designer humans through unnatural selection.

glenn said...

Lefty politics.

David Begley said...

Tattoos

Mary Beth said...

The link isn't working for me. Is it The Atlantic article - https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/what-is-the-most-significant-fad-of-all-time/517827/ ?

readering said...

Manned space exploration.

n.n said...

Baby incubators a.k.a. female surrogates in order to normalize couplets and mid-life couples.

Feminism

Female chauvinism. Eventually, men and women put away their superiority complex.

Casual sex -- detached from marriage or love.

Friendship with "benefits" or polygamy without commitment.

n.n said...

Social justice adventurism that creates abortion fields; is a first-order forcing of CAIR; denies individual dignity (e.g. [class] diversity); puts the fear of mortals with a god-complex in men, women, and babies, too; and redistributes the change.

Bob Boyd said...

Progressive-ism.

AJ Lynch said...

Black kids wearing their pants down below their butts.

AJ Lynch said...

Maybe board games.

AJ Lynch said...

Jogging.

Eric said...

Ann, I gotta know: which do you think was the dumb one? Selfies?

AJ Lynch said...

Two week honeymoons and destination weddings.

Sam L. said...

Link not working for me!

Big Mike said...

@Eric, planking was worse. Especially in dangerous places.

@Henry, don't you go knocking my cowboy boots.

Dr Weevil said...

I'm surprised no-ones mentioned codpieces or bustles. If they had overlapped at all in time, the gigantic fashion singularity would have swallowed the universe.

Paddy O said...

Kissing has been a very important fad over the years.

Paddy O said...

This thread reminds me of this scene.

Fandor said...

Prohibition!

jnseward said...

I would say fascism, the darling of the intelligentsia and the artistic set in the 30s. It looked like it could be the answer.

M Jordan said...

The moonwalk.

M Jordan said...

Or Rubik's cube.

readering said...

I never heard of normcore.

gpm said...

I'm in with Pettifogger - tulip mania - who also shares my preference in avatars.

--gpm

n.n said...

Abortion chambers and clinical cannibalism. They became prominent symbols of oppression, discrimination, and unparalleled evil in the mid-twentieth century, then received equal status with social and political progress. Hopefully, just a fad.

bagoh20 said...

modern victimhood

coffee - how did we function without it?

bagoh20 said...

walking upright

Fernandinande said...

Communism.

Basil said...

Roller blades. Where did they go?

Fernandinande said...

I looked at the answers in the article - they were damned pitiful. Tanning? Mini-skirt? Jesus.

So was this clickbait link at the article:
How Did Tech Become So Male Dominated?
Women developed computer science.

No they didn't.
Today, the industry is mostly men.
As it always has been.

gpm said...

OK, my pic doesn't show up here, but it's along the lines of Pettifogger and Freeman Hunt. Though I much preferred FH's prior one.

--gpm

Michael K said...

That was for the lesbians with children who needed family recognition and the accompanying tax/Social Security benefits to shore up their families.

Oh, I don't really disagree., I should have said "make gay marriage."

I don't really heave a problem with gays. I just think the marriage thing was a fad.


Some of my best friends,etc. Except most of them are dead.

Michael K said...

"male gay...."

It still came out "make" until I looked again.

Bob R said...

The way I've always defined "fad" involves the ideas of "craze" or "exaggerated importance," so I don't really buy Rock and Roll or cigarettes as fads since they have been sustained for so long. The only things that I'd identify as both "significant" and "fads" are financial fads like tulips, mineral rushes, land grabs, and dot-com stocks. I guess the beaver hats fall into this category. I agree that the things I usually think of as fads are insignificant (except to maybe the person who invented the hula hoop, etc.)

The Godfather said...

Of the ones mentioned in the Atlantic article, I vote for beaver hats. Not only did that fashion support the exploration of the American West in the second quarter of the 19th Century, it provided support for the Pilgrim's voyage on the Mayflower in 1620.

Todd Galle said...

Chia-pets?

Mr. Majestyk said...

Gold

Paul Zrimsek said...

I'd say fascism. (Marxism, alas, has hung around too long to count as a fad.)

Humperdink said...

Those giant eyesores that pockmark our beautiful landscape - the windmills. Hopefully these ghastly devices (aka bird juicers) will soon meet their demise. Visual pollution.

I am against taxing to change behavior, but I would hope the new administration would tax living crap out of these albatrosses. Or as Obama did to the coal industry - regulate them out of existence.

Ann Althouse said...

Link fixed. Sorry.

Michael McClain said...

Crotchless edible panties.

I am not Lazlo.

Caroline B. said...

Streaking.

Static Ping said...

Tulips.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

For the left protesting is the current hip fad. Protests that last days and even months are their new norm. "Occupying" Wall St, Madison capitol, the Dakota Access pipeline....
Those who only read news reports of protests may not be aware how often the protests share the same protesters. If PETA is your issue and there are no designated PETA protests that weekend - you go to whatever protest is happening. You still wave your PETA sign and get to hobnob with fellow lefties. The way some check the movie or concert schedule todays "protest left" check online sites to plan that weeks social calendar. From the Million Man March to the Pussy Hat March the media breathlessly report on these events as modern Woodstocks. Here is a sample find a protest website.

http://takeactionnyc.com/nyc-protest-event-calendar/

Francisco D said...

Herbert Marcuse and Saul Alinski.

They continue to inspire a lot of pseudo-intellectual fascists who think they are SJWs.

Lem said...

Pants on the ground.

Sebastian said...

Feminism

Mark said...

An awful lot of recency bias here.

Ipso Fatso said...

I think Obama was a fad.

Bad Lieutenant said...


readering said...
Manned space exploration.
3/14/17, 6:59 PM


I rarely say this but:

Die. Die die die die die. DIAF. ESADT.

I'm personally going to destroy this planet so you had better hope that we get off it first.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Bad Lieutenant said...

readering said...
Manned space exploration.
3/14/17, 6:59 PM


I rarely say this but:

Die. Die die die die die. DIAF. ESADT.

I'm personally going to destroy this planet so you had better hope that we get off it first.

3/14/17, 10:44 PM

For the price of a single shuttle flight, you could build a pair of Keck telescopes.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"What Is the Most Significant Fad of All Time?"
A fad has two important elements:
1)The valuing of a thing in a way that it has not been valued previously. Smoking cigarettes was a fad, and might be the most significant of all time, but I am not sure if "all time" also includes "all space." A fad can also apply a lesser value to what had once been considered valuable -- facial hair on men, for example. Shaving the entire face is a fad for men. It is not the historical norm.
2) A fad must be seen as being normative during the time that it is active. A fad is not pet rocks (which were widely recognized as being a fad at the time that they were sold). It was a fad, at one time, to view people of Northern European ancestry as racially superior to all other people. This really was a fad, it began about the time of Darwin and ended with World War Two (for obvious reasons). It was normal, in, say, 1890, to view "white people" as objectively superior to non-whites. This was not true in 1790 and certainly is not today.

Mark said...

Blood sport probably added considerably to the fall of Rome due to the expense.

California Snow said...

Would the cultural expectation of buying a diamond ring for your wife be pretty significant? It's certainly expensive and unfortunately for the poor young men out there, it's not going away any time soon.

Mark said...

Fireworks.

I saw this show yesterday about human origins and it mentioned how fireworks in China were used to make arrow-carrying rockets which helped defeat the Mongols, and which then led to explosive propelled projectiles (guns) and the rest is history, changing the world forever.

Jay Elink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Elink said...

Jay Elink said...
Ya gotta be a geezer to get this one, but: chlorophyll.

Then there's "Micronite Filters".

Birches said...

The Kris kross one overall buckled thing. Man, that was weird.

Yancey Ward said...

A tough thing to define. If you just focus on "fad", then probably the Hula Hoop. However, if you are going to add the modifier "significant", then it has to be something that started out as a fad, but then had long lasting cultural impact. Cigarettes is a very good answer as is Rock and Roll.

And, it can't be something that started out as a very expensive consumer item only available to the wealthy that then became a mass consumer item- fads almost by definition can be enjoyed by most economic classes.

Yancey Ward said...

One could also say Donald Trump as President.

George Leroy Tirebiter said...

My immediate response was Six Finger, but the obvious is obviously (as stated numerous times already) is hoola hoops.

The Duncan Imperial yoyo remains the best toy ever...

John Lawton said...

Modernism. Obsolete by design but reinvented by each generation.

Yancey Ward said...

Is Communism a fad?

George said...

How about the appropriate use of pronouns

https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=8903

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger John Lawton said...
Modernism. Obsolete by design but reinvented by each generation.

3/15/17, 1:15 AM

Modernism doesn't mean "rational" or "progressive." It means "the way we we do things now."

Lewis Wetzel said...


Blogger California Snow said...
Would the cultural expectation of buying a diamond ring for your wife be pretty significant? It's certainly expensive and unfortunately for the poor young men out there, it's not going away any time soon.

3/14/17, 11:18 PM

The idea of romantic love seems to have been invented in southern France/northern Italy in the 13th century. Before that time, marriage was looked at as a practical arrangement. Sexual fascination with a particular person was thought to be a form of madness in the ancient world. The idea of meeting a person, falling in love with them, marrying them, and raising a family as a romantic project is not the human norm.
The bourgeois seem to have taken to it. We even expect homosexual bourgeois to follow this pattern.
Do not underestimate the bourgeois control of the popular culture.

gadfly said...

Social media, Facebook and its look-alikes and ugly, ugly Twitter - coming up on the backstretch. Blogging was a gentlemanly sport until trolling took control of reader comments.

BudBrown said...

grits

gadfly said...

No, I was in the right church but the wrong pew with social media. PORTABLE ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS, cell phones for now, have brought face-to-face social communications to a standstill. Interaction between people has suffered to the point that no one listens anymore. I offer Donald J. Trump as a perfect example of this fad.

Etienne said...

Biggest Fad: World Wide Web

Earnest Prole said...

Lifts and Separates

donald said...

Click clacks!

Humperdink said...

Balancing the federal budget. What a worthless idea, who time is way behind us. (sarc alert)

urbane legend said...

Sally327 said...
It probably depends on one's age but I would got with EST. And prosperity gospel.


Prosperity gospel is hardly a short-lived craze. It is alive and well, and will continue to be as long as fools like some of my extended family support the preachers preaching it.

Pettifogger said...
I perhaps dwelled too much on the word "significant" and my mind came up with tulip mania.


Mania? I thought it was design. Haven't we had tu from the beginning?

tim in vermont said...

Click-clacks and pussy hats.

Oso Negro said...

Feminism.

Todd said...

"What Is the Most Significant Fad of All Time?"

Gender fluidity. This fad will have massive repercussions...

Clyde said...

Representative government.

ALP said...

Resurgence of hand crafted, non-digitally made items in addition to people taking up more and more manual, traditional hobbies: beekeeping, soap, etc... Why? I think these things are indicative of how constantly interacting with screens isn't fully satisfying to our species.

DanTheMan said...

In 1995, I was in a meeting with VP's from a Fortune 100 telecom. We were discussing ways to reduce expenses, and I suggested a pilot project to send bills via email, eliminating the costs of printing and postage.
I was assured by one of the VP's that email was just a fad, like CB Radio...

David said...

Liberalism.

D.D. Driver said...

Low fat diets and meaningless four year degrees are tied.

Hagar said...

You all forgetting about AGW?
Surely the most far-reaching and expensive fad of all time.

Kristian Holvoet said...

Communism. Oh, wait, did you mean deadly fad?

Kristian Holvoet said...

Otherwise, Star Wars or Star Trek.

Roughcoat said...

Shaving the entire face is a fad for men. It is not the historical norm.

Wrong. Men have been shaving their faces since time immemorial. Facial hair goes in and out of style; you may just as well beards a fad. Shaving or not shaving, as the case may be be, is not a fad, it is grooming choice, and it is constantly changing.

Roughcoat said...

The idea of romantic love seems to have been invented in southern France/northern Italy in the 13th century. Before that time, marriage was looked at as a practical arrangement. Sexual fascination with a particular person was thought to be a form of madness in the ancient world. The idea of meeting a person, falling in love with them, marrying them, and raising a family as a romantic project is not the human norm.

Also wrong. Romantic-type love has also been around for a very, very long time. The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians, e.g., wrote and sang gooey romantic love poems. The notion that sexual fascination was viewed by the ancients as a form of madness is only true in the sense that "madness" is understood as a metaphor, just as it is now.

Roger Sweeny said...

Some people who work on human evolution think it's art. "That cool guy, the way he sings; I want him to be my boyfriend." Which meant the genes for art production and art appreciation both increased. Which meant that genes for creativity and intelligence increased. Which led to us.

Hagar said...

Come to think of it, communism, or bolshevism, probably holds the record, and it will stand for some time - I hop[e. It certainly has been the most deadly.

Francisco D said...

@ George Leroy Tirebiter

Nice name!

Firesign Theater: "Don't Crush that Dwarf. Hand me the Pliers"?

Lewis Wetzel said...

Roughcoat said...
Shaving the entire face is a fad for men. It is not the historical norm.

Wrong. Men have been shaving their faces since time immemorial.


Just because it was done doesn't mean it was a historical norm. Men shaving their head is done but it is not a cultural norm.
Shaving the entire face became popular when the safety razor became popular. Before that time, a daily shave was expensive and/or time consuming.

Scott McGlasson said...

Saying "cool" when something is fashionably hot.

Scott McGlasson said...

Kilts.

William Chadwick said...

The Davy Crockett Craze. At least it was for me. I still feel the influence.

Mike near Seattle said...

The question is meaningless. No fads is significant. If something is significant, it's not a fad, it's something else.

jnseward said...

Long hair on men in the 60s. It was a statement about an entire world view and it placed you outside the bounds of polite society.

roundeye said...

Emancipation and universal sufferage.