The curious case of the 'bucket list'

If you manage to dodge the bigotry, Reddit is a fascinating place when people care about educating and being wholesome(ish). Take this post for example: a Redditor by the name of plumberoncrack posted “Bear with me here, I need a well-known movie screenshot of a white guy crying over a dead black guy…”. The answer was The Bucket List but the post conjured a revelation:

Fun fact about that movie:

The term “bucket list” did not exist before the creation of that movie. The movie coined the term, not the other way around.

Edit: I’m getting downvoted but a lot of the replies here prove me correct. Do your research.

comment by YoyoDevo on the post

Cue a heated debate (because Reddit) to which r/etymology gave its meta critique. The best comment from the r/etymology post was this from hexagonalwagonal (I’ve cut it down to just the first few paragraphs as it’s quite long):

For the record, OED’s earliest instance is from a syndicated UPI Newswire article on June 29, 2006. As found by commenters in this thread, Variety wrote an article about the film the same day, and other commenters have found references to it dating from the day before. It would seem the studio issued a press release on June 28, 2006, announcing the film and describing the concept, and various outlets/people wrote about it.

But as others have pointed out in this thread, surely the concept existed before the movie. So what did they call it? (EDIT: They most often called it a “life list” — see below.)

Rather than trying to find a pre-June 2006 source for the specific phrase “bucket list”, let’s look at sources that talk about the concept and see how they refer to it. What’s notable is that many of these sources could have saved themselves explanation if the author knew the phrase. Yet none of them ever used it.

It would appear the film created the phrase but the concept of a list of things to do before you die was alive and well for much longer. The Mandela effect likely remains strong for those mass debaters in the original post. I doubt “arguing on the internet” was a priority on their bucket list.

Reddit related: James Corden did a Reddit AMA and it turned into a roast

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