bodacious, c1936

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Apr 29 06:12:16 UTC 2005

What's the status of research on "bodacious"?  The current OED and HDAS
entries could easily be improved by the newspaper databases, as the more
modern senses are only given cites from the late '60s onwards.

For instance, HDAS has an earliest cite of 1967 for the sense 'impudent,
insolent; daring', but the cites below show that this sense was common by
1936, as popularized by Billy De Beck's "Barney Google" comic strip.

1935 _Hammond Times_ (Ind.) 5 Nov. 1/7 If there's anyone in Hammond who
can take it, it's Bill Prater, debonair theater usher and bodacious
bridegroom of four days.
1936 _Washington Post_ 10 Jan. 17/1 Whichever it was, it developed that
Mr. Adams was what Mr. Billy De Beck would term a trifle too bodacious in
his choice of a descriptive nickname.
1936 _Lancaster Eagle Gazette_ (Ohio) 17 Mar. 13 ["Barney Google" comic
strip by Billy De Beck] Git out an' root fer yoreself-- I knowed fer some
time ye was gittin' a leetle too bodacious an' would have ter be brung
1936 _Washington Post_ 7 Jun. (Parade of Youth) 6/3 "The Girl of the
Ozarks" is largely the story of a very "bodacious" little mountain girl.
No angel, the young mountaineer has more mischievous spirit than gooey
1936 _Charleston Daily Mail_ (W. Va.) 9 Oct. 2 (advt.) She won first prize
with him in a scavenger hunt... She made him her butler and he made her
behave! Bodacious butler... Rascally lover... Wotta man-- Wotta picture!

Also from 1936 are two cites from an Indiana gossip column that seem to
fit the sense 'sexually attractive' (from 1985 in HDAS), though I suppose
they might also fit the 'daring' or 'impressive' senses...

1936 _Hammond Times_ (Ind.) 31 Jan. 1/2 Charles Esola, the youthful
assistant city attorney, is being kidded about the increase in his harem.
Five more bodacious females will aid him in the city ordinance
1936 _Hammond Times_ (Ind.) 19 Feb. 1/2 Secret operatives are attempting
to discover for whom Pauline Carlson, bodacious blonde of the city
controller's office, autographed a photograph of herself.

--Ben Zimmer

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