Worldbuilding Through Language, Part 1
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has a “Time Traveler” function, which allows you to see what words first saw print in a given year.
Which means if you have a campaign set in a real-world year, you can create a list of words that were first used in print that year. This becomes a list of the cutting edge of new discussions in various fields. If ‘antibiotic’ is first used as a word in 1891, and that’s the year of your campaign, that tells you something about the state of medicine and awareness of it as a concept. It also means you may want to look at the history of the word and see how it was being used. (Antibiotics, for example, were being explored as a concept in 1891, not yet available).
As an example of what I mean, here is a list of words first used in English in print in 1891, the year of my Really Wild West campaign.
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