Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Jan 1 22:23:59 UTC 2004

>The etymology of tolo is the Chinook Jargon (Native American pidgin of the
>Pacific Northwest) /tulu/ 'to win.'

Seems plausible. With such a short word however one would want to seek
evidence that it's not a chance resemblance.

I find one other proposed etymology: an implausible acronym ("the old lady
obliges"). Etymythologies are very common even for recondite words! One
would like to ensure that the more-plausible Chinook derivation is not
[also] an invented legend.

>... I can imagine that originally the term was /kluchman tolo/ 'the
>girls/ladies win,' appropriate to a Sadie Hawkins context.

Is such a phrase recorded anywhere?

I can imagine other ways in which Chinook (or other) "tolo" could have come
to be applied to a Sadie-Hawkins-type dance: "Tolo" has occurred in that
geographical area as a place name for example, and as the name of a boat,
and it's a surname. Couldn't the dance type be named after some "Tolo
Tavern" which hosted the first such event, for example?

But in particular: there has been a Tolo Club (later Mortarboard,
apparently) at U. Washington for a long time (since 1909 or 1910, it says
on the Web). Could the tolo dance have been a Tolo Club institution
originally? [Then why was the Tolo Club so named? Can "tolo" carry a
meaning like "[academic] success"?]

I wonder whether DARE has "tolo".

-- Doug Wilson

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