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We’ve Been “Nuking” Food for More Than 40 Years

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Why do we say we are going to nuke some food when we’re simply heating it in the microwave? The earliest recorded instance of nuking food in this way comes from a 1982 article in the University of North Carolina student newspaper. It’s an example of semantic bleaching, where a word associated with something terrible and destructive — to nuke as in “deploy a nuclear bomb” — is now applied to an activity that’s far more benign. Microwave radiation (which is just radio waves) is nothing like nuclear radiation! This is part of a complete episode.

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