Mahimahi vs. Muckamuck; "Limited Resources"

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Nov 11 15:19:58 UTC 2002

On Mon, Nov 11, 2002 at 03:25:37AM -0500, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
>    "Mahimahi" is not English in 1836?
>    OED's first citation is 1905.  DARE's first citation is 1926.
>    The book I cited from is in English.  It lists "mahimahi" as a
> species--what else would you call it?  As I've said before, it could be the
> first citation, or put in parenthesis, or put in "etymology" (which just
> lists "Hawaiian" and nothing else).  But if I'm looking up "mahimahi," it's a
> citation I'd like to know about.  Why not make things easy for dictionary
> users?

There's a big difference between having a word as the first citation and having
it in brackets or in the etymology. This book, while written in English, is
a dictionary of Hawaiian; to say that the glossing of a Hawaiian word is
English just because it's in a bilingual dictionary is like saying that
_eludificor_ is English because it appears in the _Oxford Latin Dictionary._
(It's from Plautus, so probably occurs as an inkhorn term in the 17th
century, if you want to look for it.)

We try to give information that is helpful. I don't think the existence
of _mahimahi_ in Hawaiian is in question to the extent that it serves
any useful purpose to demonstrate that it existed in 1836. Contrast
this, however, with:

>    Look at OED's revised "Mazurka," for example.  That gives you the dates in
> other languages.

In the case of _mazurka,_ the etymology is quite complicated, and the
question of borrowing among various Western European languages is a
difficult one. Thus it does serve a useful purpose, in my opinion, to
go into more detail of the history of the term's transmission from
Polish to Western European languages. This is quite different from
_mahimahi,_ which is unquestionably from Hawaiian directly into

>    But look at both DARE and OED for "muckamuck"--a term I've come across as
> well.  Both give an 1847 citation.  The "muckamuck" citation is in a list of
> "Chinook jargon."  Is that English?
>    DARE puts it in parenthesis.
>    OED uses it as the first citation.  No parenthesis.  The "Chinook" side of
> a jargon list is considered English!
>    Why is what's good enough for "muckamuck" not good enough for "mahimahi"?

In this case, you're right--which is why in the revised version of
this entry, which should appear in March 2003, the 1847 cite has been
moved up into the etymology, and 1852 is our earliest example of
English use.

Jesse Sheidlower

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