Australian National Dictionary editor Dr AMANDA LAUGESEN, BA (Hons) ’97, PhD ’01, traces the evolution of a term in consumer culture.
Pop-upadjective — denoting a shop or other business that opens quickly in a temporary location and is intended to operate for only a short period of time.
By the time this edition of ‘Word Watch’ makes it into print, the ANU campus will be almost enjoying its new pop-up village. The term pop-up, in the sense defined above, is a relatively new one that describes a now ubiquitous feature of modern consumer culture.
Pop-up has an interesting history that suggests much about the evolution of consumer culture through the 20th and into the 21st century.
First appearing in the late 19th century as a noun, pop up was used in the United States to refer to a popover (a small roll with a high top that ‘pops up’ during baking), as well as to a type of baseball hit that goes high and is easy to catch (a hit that ‘pops up’).
The term became more common with the development of the pop-up children’s book in the 1920s – the Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of the adjective in reference to a pop-up edition of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh in 1926.
Pop-up also described some of the technologies that people used as a variety of appliances became part of ordinary households. Most notable was the pop-up toaster, first advertised in 1938 in the United States.
Pop-up increased in general usage from the 1980s when it began to be used in computing. As computers became part of our everyday lives, we became familiar with the pop-up window and the pop-up (as well as the drop down) menu.
But everyday items also often featured a ‘pop-up’ dimension; technologies from pop-up sprinklers to pop-up headlights (on a car) to pop-up sun shelters can be found in the latter decades of the 20th century and beyond.
Since the 2000s we have seen the arrival of the pop-up shop, the pop-up café, the pop-up restaurant and a variety of pop-up events from protests to concerts. The Oxford English Dictionary records this particular sense of the adjective from 1993.
In Australia, these pop-up locations and events first appeared in the early 2000s. By the end of the first decade of the century, pop-up stores, restaurants and bars were common.
References to pop-ups continue to rise through the 2010s.
The term pop-up village is first recorded in Australia around 2011. The idea of the pop-up village has had an impact in Canberra’s social and cultural scene, notably with the Westside pop-up village that was located by the side of Lake Burley Griffin (now closed).
The University’s pop-up village continues this now well-established phenomenon of global culture.
The term continues to reflect our rapidly evolving consumer culture and is likely to for some time to come.
The Australian National Dictionary (first edition) can be accessed online at bit.ly/rep_AND