WORDS OF 1912.

The next installment in Dave Wilton’s series of words culled from the OED, this includes terms created or attested surprisingly late, like ambivalence, hometown, and punch-drunk, the medical terms autism and schizophrenia, the basic musical terms blues and jazz, the trademarks Oreo and Pimm’s, and all sorts of other goodies (frumpiness! grognard! vitamin!). A great idea well carried out.

Comments

  1. Nasty typo there, 1980s for 1890s s.v. electronic.

  2. dearieme says:

    Pimm’s has recently used a new advertising slogan that I have already heard being used gleefully by The Young. “It’s Pimm’s o’clock.”

  3. “Beer o’clock”, if Google Books is to be trusted, has been around since at least 1986.

  4. dearieme says:

    Ah! So the advertising johnnies are being as “creative” as usual.

  5. dearieme says:

    When did “creative” come to be used of the plagiarising trades?

  6. When did “creative” come to be used of the plagiarising trades?
    Now, now. In “Language in Thought and Action” Hayakawa called advertising copy “commercial poetry.”

  7. “Crack o’clock”. Hayakawa would say that, he was very right wing and started the movement to make English the US’s official language.

  8. So “jazz” migrated from baseball to music!
    Ken Burns would be gratified.

  9. An excellent way to revisit the modern shibboleths surrounding many of these words. Knowing there was nothing “ambivalent” about the early twentieth century mindset is to underscore the mollified mindset of today, for example.

  10. J. W. Brewer says:

    I think the internal usage of the advertising trade is to use “creatives” to refer to the subset of the employees who who aren’t “suits.” And, I mean, they do make stuff up. Create it, one might say. I’m not sure what field of more high-toned “creative” endeavor has measurably less plagiarism (“immature artists borrow; mature artists steal”) than advertising. I would think someone interested in language use could find lots of interesting data in advertising without thereby necessarily being “right-wing” (which Hayakawa may or may not otherwise have been, depending on who you ask and what sort of spectrum you’re measuring against).

  11. Well, he was a protégé of Gov. Ronald Reagan and one-term Republican senator. He allegedly fell asleep a lot in the Senate, but I still count him as right wing. Not Hitler, just an old conservative.

  12. wiki also informs us that:
    In the early 1960s, [Hayakawa] helped organize the Anti Digit Dialing League, a group in San Francisco that opposed the introduction of all digit telephone exchange names.

  13. J. W. Brewer says:

    If only they’d had him in the U.K., Hayakawa could have been a great denouncer of the Jacobin innovation of decimal coinage. But when he wrote Language in Thought and Action, it was way back when Reagan himself was still a New Deal Democrat, so I don’t know that one should retroject a political persona developed in the ’60′s and ’70′s back to the context of the original “commercial poetry” observation. Am I correct that Korzybski’s project (of which Hayakawa was a popularizer) has more or less disappeared without a trace in modern academic linguistics?

  14. I think the internal usage of the advertising trade is to use “creatives” to refer to the subset of the employees who who aren’t “suits.” And, I mean, they do make stuff up. Create it, one might say. I’m not sure what field of more high-toned “creative” endeavor has measurably less plagiarism (“immature artists borrow; mature artists steal”) than advertising.
    Yes, “creatives” are the folks who create what you read, see or hear when you’re exposed to advertising. “Suits” are those who, well, wear suits when they meet with clients; “account execs” fall into that category too. Researchers, media buyers and many others are also involved in creating and executing campaigns.
    As to the charge of plagiarism: the same can be said of many “creative” occupations: clothing designers, interior designers, book designers, musicians, photographers and others draw from “high art” and from each other. The way things all around us look and feel and sound – and change over time – follows moods and tones set by self-possessed and precious elites. Why even (male) academics aspiring to tenure – iconoclastic souls that they are – know full well they’ll be summarily rejected by their peers should they arrive on campus wearing other than the battered tweeds their station requires. Is that mode of dress not plagiarism too? After all, it’s nothing more than the slavish copying of a style meant to show their indifference to the material world.

  15. “Jazz” started off with a sexual meaning, I’m almost sure. “Jazz me Blues” as I understand meant something very explicit. Dialect smutty talk of oppressed minorities usually doesn’t make it directly into print.
    The term “creatives” in advertising is matched by “talent” in talk show lingo. There’s a chair where the talent sits when he’s part of a panel, or while he’s being interviewed. The talent’s role is to respond appropriately to whatever is thrown his way. He has no influence on the overall structure of the show.
    Producers’ cell phones are filled with talents’ phone numbers so that if one talent cancels, another one can be instantly slotted in. Some people have the art of being a talent mastered: Ann Coulter, Al Sharpton, etc.

  16. I was myself a denouncer of decimal coinage, which I regarded at the time it was introduced as inflationary (I can’t remember why). I’m sure I was right, though.

  17. J. W. Brewer says:

    But the alleged white-guys-playing-baseball origin of “jazz” is so interesting precisely because it’s counterintuitive. Five minutes w/ google suggests that the earliest recording of “Jazz Me Blues” was in 1921 – nine years later. (I learned the smutty transitive-verb use of “jazz” from Farrell’s Studs Lonigan, which wasn’t published until the early ’30′s, but is set earlier, and there it’s already white guys using it, although perhaps even then it was a sign of hipness to imitate black slang.) Maybe the baseball types somehow got hold of some oppressed-minority-smutty-talk and created a non-obvious extended meaning before it first appeared in print, but it doesn’t *have* to have happened that way.

  18. Paul Ogden, in another acceptable form of more-or-less plagiarism architects draw from so-called “precedents”. This is also known in the trade as “Why reinvent the wheel?”. So, if someone designed a shingle-style gas station in 1931 why not reuse the design when Exxon now wants to build some new gas stations in Boston? There are some good reasons, in my opinion, but plagiarism isn’t one of them. I’m guessing there are more US life-insur@nce* companies with a row of Ionic columns out front than there are Ionic-order temples in Asia Minor. I can see a distinction between following a convention of classical architecture and copying someone else’s work out of a design magazine, but it’s complicated, and I’m not sure it’s a moral distinction, more a social one perhaps. In practice I think it would be hard to pin down plagiarism in building design. I wouldn’t object to having an idea of mine copied, but I personally wouldn’t want to copy – where’s the satisfaction?
    *(Questionable content.)

  19. When I hear “counterintuitive” I reach for my gun.

  20. Am I correct that Korzybski’s project (of which Hayakawa was a popularizer) has more or less disappeared without a trace in modern academic linguistics?
    You are. As a young science fiction fan in the early ’60s I was naturally intrigued by General Semantics (The World of Null-A!), but when I started studying linguistics around 1970 I didn’t hear word one about it. It was always more of a philosophy thing than a linguistics thing. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that Korzybski’s full name was Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski. Neither did I until Professor Wikipedia told me just now.)
    The way things all around us look and feel and sound – and change over time – follows moods and tones set by self-possessed and precious elites.
    Why “precious”?
    “Jazz” started off with a sexual meaning, I’m almost sure.
    “I’m almost sure” and a nickel would have gotten you onto the subway back when I was a kid. It’s been seven years since I left NYC, so I have no idea what they charge now… but I digress. The fact is, anyone who accepts the common wisdom says “[common wisdom], I’m almost sure.” If they’re the reflective type, that is; the bullying type says “[common wisdom], goddammit, and I don’t want to hear anything else.” But the fact is that recent research has overturned the traditional story of the word “jazz,” and the burden of proof is very much on those who dispute the baseball story. In a contest between actual, physical evidence and the vague memories of aging musicians a generation later, the former wins every time. As to where the baseball players got the word, who knows? Maybe they invented it (it is an irresistible word, after all), or maybe more evidence will turn up.

  21. And when I worked in advertising, the “creatives” (a perfectly ordinary, unexceptionable word in the context, like, say, “staff officers” in the army) were by and large smart, funny people, far more interesting to hang out with than the suits. You may not like what they do for a living, but a lot of them don’t either. A job’s a job, and if your three manuscript novels haven’t sold and you’re no good at anything practical like plumbing and you’ve got rent to pay, well, if someone’s willing to pay you a ridiculously large sum of money to come up with phrases like “[product] is best!” you’re likely to take it, even at the price of self-contempt and a high probability of being fired once every year or two.

  22. It’s been seven years since I left NYC, so I have no idea what they charge now…
    $46.50

  23. Subway fares: It’s complicated, but the basic price for a subway ride is $2.25. However, a two-ride MetroCard costs $5.00; on the other hand, if you buy more than $10 worth you get an additional 7%. (“It’s the rich what gets the gravy, it’s the poor and the tourists what gets the shaft.”) On the gripping hand, 30-day MetroCards are now $104, which gets the price down to $1.73 if you use them twice a day, but most people don’t.
    The good news is that subway-bus and bus-bus transfers are basically free and unlimited nowadays, and the Staten Island Ferry is free tout court, making it an even better bargain than before. As for the nickel ride, you were four years from being born when it was raised to a dime on July 1, 1947.
    Advertising: Back in the early 80s, I was on a mailing list that contained a flamer who was always going on about how unfair life is for authors: the publishers, the IRS, and God were all in a conspiracy against them. Finally I had had enough, and let him have it: “If you want to make a living writing, go into advertising.”
    Well, how did I know he was John D. McDonald? He had a CompuServe mailing address, and apparently he thought he had a .sig that gave his real name, but he didn’t, as the public archives proved. Finally, he had to fall back on “I’ve been using the same address for years”, as if everyone was supposed to memorize his nine-digit CompuServe address!
    Korzybski: As if being named Habdank Skarbek wasn’t enough, he was also a Count.

  24. architecture . . . I wouldn’t object to having an idea of mine copied, but I personally wouldn’t want to copy – where’s the satisfaction?
    I don’t like copying either, but clients sometimes insist: “I want a building just like that one!” It’s an application of the Golden Rule (He who has the gold rules). The satisfaction comes from the detail work, which is invariably unique to a project, and from the fee. Not every architect can be a Gehry or a Liebeskind.
    Why “precious”?
    AHD definition 4: Affectedly dainty or overrefined: precious mannerisms.
    M-W definition 3: Excessively refined : affected
    Affected: a : having or showing an attitude or mode of behavior that is not natural or genuinely felt : given to or marked by affectation

  25. But the fact is that recent research has overturned the traditional story of the word “jazz,” and the burden of proof is very much on those who dispute the baseball story.
    To me a sexual interpretation of baseball is far more likely than a baseball interpretation of sex.
    If there’s a single area where the written record is an unreliable guide to the history of language, certainly smutty minority dialect would be one of those areas. Sportswriting is one of the main channels by which nonstandard language is put into writing, and everything in sportswriting is going to be about aports, but I don’t think that we should put unbue weight on that. Especially because this was an era (far different than ours) in which there was almost NO sex writing, and publishers could be imprisoned for publishing something rather bland by Dreiser or Joyce.
    Of course, if the history of language is played like Scrabble, according to printed rules established by an official community (which apparently rejects the vague memories of aging musicians), then “jazz” can be known, for the moment at least, to have originated as a baseball term.

  26. The wiki article on The Word Jazz says of a 1913 baseball article:
    The article uses jazz several more times and says that the San Francisco Seals’ “members have trained on ragtime and ‘jazz’ and manager Del Howard says there’s no stopping them.” The context of the article as a whole shows that a musical meaning of jazz is not intended; rather, ragtime and “jazz” were both used as markers of ebullient spirit.
    But surely readers would already associate the word “ragtime” with music by 1913.

  27. On the gripping hand,
    Great expression; I’ll try to remember to use it.
    AHD definition &c. &c.
    I understand the meaning of “precious”; what I wanted to know was why you felt it applied to everyone who created things that caught on culturally. It seemed like pointless blunderbuss prejudice to me.
    Of course, if the history of language is played like Scrabble, according to printed rules established by an official community (which apparently rejects the vague memories of aging musicians), then “jazz” can be known, for the moment at least, to have originated as a baseball term.
    I find the vague memories of aging musicians extremely interesting, and have frequently recommended the better-written memoirs, like Jelly Roll Morton’s. But I won’t trust what they say without backup.

  28. To me a sexual interpretation of baseball is far more likely than a baseball interpretation of sex.
    You’ll never get to third base thinking like that.

  29. I understand the meaning of “precious”; what I wanted to know was why you felt it applied to everyone who created things that caught on culturally. It seemed like pointless blunderbuss prejudice to me.
    Point taken. Not every shot I fire is that of an ace sniper. Some days the muse says “Gatling gun today.” On others, it’s “Blunderbuss,” and on still others it’s “Heat-seeking missile” or, even – yes, I admit it – “Pea shooter.”

  30. David Marjanović says:

    Is hometown a calque of German Heimatstadt?

  31. Is hometown a calque of German Heimatstadt?
    Possibly. The OED says it’s a U.S. expression, and AmE is essentially Hiberno-English as spoken by a German.

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