"Learnings"? In 2006, it was a joke word, meant to suggest crude ESL.

In 2007, it's actually being used in the New York Times. Was that the black day when it changed over?

NYT excerpt:

“We’re going to learn so much about our readers,” Mr. Smith said of the online-only issue. “We’ll take the learnings and apply them to the rest of our business.”

  • 1
    In the excerpt, the word appears within a quotation. The excerpt consequently does not show that the editors of NYT endorse such usage. – jsw29 Jun 21 '18 at 19:54

I share with you the jocular nuance of the word. However, a quick Google NGrams search shows that some time in the mid 1920's it started to become very popular very quickly and has been slowly reducing in frequency since a peak in the 1950's.

NGrams chart of learnings

A perusal of the hits shows that it's been used in the same manner, things that have been learned, all these years.

It has always sounded 'off' to me, like you said uneducated or like a goofy neologism that would never really catch on. And yet, it caught on a while ago.

  • Eek, foolish of me to not think of checking NGrams. I was alive for the trailing edge of “learnings”’s popularity, but just don’t remember it. – Malvolio Jun 13 '18 at 23:10
  • @Malvolio I look at the graph and have a hard time believing it because I feel like it was only in the past 10 years that corporate speak started using it. But then you look at the examples and the old examples are just as cringeworthy. – Mitch Jun 14 '18 at 13:07

I have been an editor on Chinese language translated documents in the early 2000s. After several years of doing this I have gleaned insight into how they think and common word usages. The use of "learnings" instead of "lessons" I believe is something that has crossed over into our English lexicon with the advent of Chinese (in this case) using words that just "seem wrong." And I believe "learnings" is just one such word that has been introduced into the English language is such a way.

  • Hi Gregory, welcome to EL&U. This is an interesting speculation, but at EL&U we're not looking for authoritative, detailed answers. Can you edit your answer to provide a published example of a Chinese translation using "learnings" before the NYT did? For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) – Chappo Feb 23 at 6:00

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