Red light district
fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 28 02:09:14 UTC 2000
On Tue, 25 Apr 2000, Peter A. McGraw wrote:
> The following message was posted to a railroad listserv that I subscribe
> to. It sounds like a folk etymology, but a CURSORY search of Am.Sp. and a
> couple of dictionaries didn't yield anything better. I thought I had a
> vague memory of a discussion on this list sometime, but didn't find
> anything in the archive. The first citations in the OED are American
> (Boston and NYC), from 1900.
> Does anybody know the real origin of "red light district"?
In the world of real etymological scholarship on phrases, usually the best
one can do is to shed light on the "when" of origins; the "why" is usually
Here is earlier evidence than the OED's first use:
a1898 W. C. Brann _Brann the Iconoclast_ (1911) II. 99 The _Post_ next
proceeded to publish a directory of Houston's redlight district, giving
names and addresses of the "madames," the number of their "boarders" and
the condition of the merchandise thrown upon the market.
Fred R. Shapiro Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
and Lecturer in Legal Research ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu ISBN 0-19-509547-2
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