Credit: Nick Shepherd

Where the word 'brainstorming' comes from

WORDS-WORTH: A brainstorm may help come up with a great idea, but the term is linked to a medical word for a mental disturbance.

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 16 Jun 2016

In the 19th century, a 'brain-storm' was a sudden neurological or mental disturbance. Then, in the 1940s, an advertising executive called Alex Osborn developed a system for generating ideas: he called it 'brainstorming'. The idea swept the world. But some feel that 'brainstorming' still carries the old medical associations and is potentially offensive. So for a while it was discouraged in government organisations, which preferred 'thought shower' and 'cloudbursting'. But these names never caught on. Perhaps they should have 'brainstormed' to find something better.

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