The phrase “you learn something new every day” has become especially relevant in the Internet Age. Here’s something that might surprise you: the word “dependability” has only been around for a century, and was made up by the Dodge Brothers Company, as Dodge was known then.
Believe it or not, a PR guy for Dodge invented the word dependability back in 1914 as a way to embiggen the automaker’s sales figures. That PR guy was named Theodore McManus, and he was using a perfectly cromulent marketing technique named “anthimeria.”
That’s when advertisers turn an adjective into a noun. Like when Nutella implores you to “spread the happy,” or when Carvel claims their ice cream is what “happy tastes like,” or when a certain Ketchup brand promises that “where there’s happy, it has to be Heinz.” By turning a descriptor into an actual location or a tangible, spreadable thing, “happy” becomes something that you can actually possess – by buying stuff!
By adding the suffix “-ility” to the common adjective “dependable,” McManus created “dependability,” a new noun that Dodge’s reliable vehicles could be said to epitomize. His new word started appearing in dictionaries as early as the 1930’s, and the rest is history.
So in 1914, Dodge invented the word dependability, and now 100 years later, an automotive news site is writing about it as an interesting trivia tidbit. Which can only mean that 100 years from now, some dried meat news site is going to write an article about how the commonplace word “hangry” was actually popularized by Jack Link’s Beef Jerky.