The most intolerable members of our species are constantly coming up with new slang terms to describe concepts that we've known forever, like "friending" somebody who follows us on Facebook, even though we've had the concept of friends since time began. However, sometimes a term that sounds like it was made up by Ke$ha on the fly turns out to have a rich history in the English language much older than we ever knew. For example ...
6 "Swag" Was Made Famous by Charles Dickens in 1838
"Swag" is up there with "YOLO" on the list of things that future generations will relentlessly mock people from the 2000s for saying, which we absolutely deserve. Currently, there aren't a lot of things worse than "swag," which used to mean "stylish accoutrements and expensive taste" and now somehow means your knock-off Rolex and a sideways trucker hat. Still, it seems like people haven't been using this word to describe their bling for any longer than they've been using the term "Gangnam Style."
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"Hey Macarena! (Ay!)"
But Actually ...
If you were paying attention in middle school, you might not have slept through this exchange from Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist:
"Good," said the Jew; "there's no moon."
"No," rejoined Sikes.
"It's all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?" asked the Jew.
If we can look past the disturbing fact that there's a character in the book named "the Jew" (this was the 19th century), this particular Jew is using the term in pretty much the same way that modern douchebags do, defined in old-timey style as "wearing apparel, linen, piece-goods, etc." That's right: People knew what it meant to have swag when they were reading it in 1838.
And Fagin's main man even had the cap and low-slung pants going on.
Although it shares the same root as "swagger" ("svagga," a Scandinavian word meaning "to sway"), "swag" was actually used first, and much earlier. As early as 1303, to be exact, in the time when English was still basically indistinguishable from German. At that time, "swag" meant a bulging bag, which kind of makes those boasts sound a little bit creepy. By the mid-19th century, "swag" had transformed from the bag itself to the stuff in it (which was usually looted or stolen because, let's be real here, this word comes from the Middle Ages and there was nothing else to do back then).
By 1838, you had what amounts to the modern definition ("acquired loot that makes you a badass"). Dickens stopped just short of following the exchange up with a high-five and "Yeah bro, #swag4lyfe."