Heidi Harley says she is “not the kind of linguist who is heavy into antedating and sourcing,” but she happened to run into a citation for eggnog that beat the OED’s 1825 date and posted on Language Log about it: a poem by 18th-century clergyman and philologist Jonathan Boucher contained the lines
Fog-drams i’ th’ morn, or (better still) egg-nogg,
At night hot-suppings, and at mid-day, grogg,
My palate can regale:
The poem seems to have been written around 1774, but as Joel S. Berson points out in this guest post at the Log, the OED would use the date of publication, 1807, rather than the apparent (but unprovable) date of the poem. Not to worry, however, because Joel found a nice citation from the Oct. 16, 1788 issue of the Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia):
Rummaging now the brain, many conceits may be found, much truth of all kinds, whole store rooms of curses and unmentionable damns, with devils of all shapes and colours, thousands of encomiums on oysters, hot suppers, and devilish fine wines; and there are so many different qualities and dispositions that intestine wars are never over; when wine and beer, punch and eggnog meet, instantly ensues a quarrel, and it is raised so high, that the brains boil like mush in a pot with heat, and was it not for the holes I before mentioned, which let out the steam, the skull must be cracked.
Now, the odd thing is that the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate gives the date of eggnog as “ca. 1775.” Are they also working from the Boucher poem, or do they have an early citation they’re keeping to themselves?
Utterly unrelated, but I have to share something I ran across in the OED while perusing the latest list of new additions (PURPRESS to QUIT SHILLING). They give the etymology of Q-tip as “the initial letter of QUALITY n. + TIP n.” and then add in small type: “The product was app. invented in 1923 by Leo Gerstenzang, a Polish-born American, who initially named them Baby Gays. In 1926 the name was changed to Q-tips Baby Gays, and later shortened to Q-tips.” I’ll bet they thank their lucky stars every day that Gerstenzang decided to change the name.