According to Google Trends, ‘banter’ hit its peak in 2014 and is finally starting to decline in use as a term, thank goodness.

What you may not know, however, is that banter has been a notorious term for more than 300 years.

Writing in The Tatler in 1710, famous essayist and author of Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift wrote of his hatred of the word, which he described as a prime example of “the continual corruption of our English tongue”:

The third Refinement observable in the Letter I send you, consisteth in the Choice of certain Words invented by some pretty fellows; such as Banter, Bamboozle, Country Put, and Kidney, as it is there applied; some of which are now struggling for the Vogue, and others are in possession of it. I have done my utmost for some Years past to stop the progress of Mob and Banter, but have been plainly borne down by Numbers, and betrayed by those who promised to assist me.

The word first came into existence as a verb and then as a noun, used to describe a more violent or boisterous exchange, in the last third of the seventeenth century.

The first appearance of the verb is in a 1676 play by Thomas D’Urfey, called Madam Fickle, in which the character Zechiel cries to his brother: “Banter him, banter him, Toby".

If you were wondering, 'Country Put' meant 'an ignorant countryside fellow', and 'kidney' was used to describe things that were alike, ie, like a pair of kidneys.

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