Douglas G. Wilson
douglas at NB.NET
Mon Nov 27 17:36:57 UTC 2000
>>The slang "chat" may be derived from the earlier, more common meaning of the
>>word. One website devoted to British World War I terminology reports: "Lice
>>were the soldier's constant companions and were known colloquially as
>>'chats.' Troops used to congregate in groups to de-louse themselves, and
>>de-lousing, or 'chatting' became a social event."
But "chat" = "talk" in the 'modern' sense occurred as early as 1556, and in
a slightly different sense as early as 1440, according to the OED: thought
to be from "chatter".
"Chat(t)s" = "lice" apparently exists since 1690 (OED): said to be from
"chattel" (lice = the poor man's cattle) (discussed in Farmer and Hensley,
Partridge gives the verb "chat" or "chatt" = "look for lice"/"delouse",
from WW I. But apparently "chat" = "talk" was already long established
separately. Possibly these were connected as a sort of joke during WW I?
-- Doug Wilson
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