There have been lots of fun words that we commonly use from the Yiddish vocabulary. Words like: schmooze, maven, klutz, and yes the word glitch. But who is responsible for popularizing it’s use in modern language.
The word “glitch” has been popularized by the famous astronaut John Glenn. In the book by the Mercury Seven, he mused about the word saying it was another term to describe a technical problem. Though he was not the first to use the word on media.
What is the Etymology of the Word Glitch?
The word glitch originated from the Yiddish word glitsh which means slippery place. It is also used as glitshn which literally translates to slide. When you think of it, it doesn’t come close to describing what the word glitch today.
In the 1940s radio announcers started using the term glitch to describe an on-air issues or technical problems. By the 1950s the term made it to mainstream media and engineers started using the term as well.
There is no way of telling for sure how John Glenn learned about the word, but one thing is certain – his use of the term caught on quick. The next thing we knew, it was part of astronaut jargon. (Source: Air Space Magazine)
Who is John Glenn?
John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born on July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio. His family moved to Concord, Ohio after he was born and his father started the Glenn Plumbing Company. Growing up, he was fascinated with aviation. He flew his first plane with his father at the age of 8. He would even build aircraft models in his spare time.
Although aviation was his first love, he studied chemistry when he went to Muskingum College. Through a free Civilian Pilot Training Program, Glenn was able to earn a private pilot license by 1941.
He was a US Marine Corps pilot, an engineer, a businessman, and a state senator. But he was better known for his role as an astronaut. He was the first American to have gone around the earth three times in 1962. And after retiring from NASA, he became a state senator from 1974 until 1999.
Controversies About John Glenn
In 1998, John Glenn went back to space for a little experiment. While reading a book called Space Physiology and Medicine which was written by NASA doctors, he realized that the changes that occur in space such as loss of muscle and bone mass as well as blood plasma are similar to the changes older people experience. Glenn thought NASA should try sending an older person on board a shuttle mission – and he would be the perfect candidate for this. (Source: Brian Riley)
Dan Goldin, the director of NASA during the time said he would consider Glenn if he could pass the physical exams the younger astronauts took. Needless to say, he was able to complete the examinations and qualify for the mission.
By January 1998, Goldin announced that Glenn would be part of the STS-95. Making him, at 77, the oldest person to fly into space. (Source: CNN)
There was a lot of controversy around this mission, especially when he was very involved in politics. Some people on the space community pointed out that the mission was basically a favor granted to Bill Clinton, who was the President at the time.
John Pike, the director of the Federation of American Scientist said: “If he was a normal person, he would acknowledge he’s a great American hero and that he should get to fly on the shuttle for free. He’s too modest for that, and so he’s got to have this medical research reason. It’s got nothing to do with medicine.” (Source: CBS News)