New retroacroetymythostupidnym

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Aug 24 03:10:39 UTC 2005

On Tue, 23 Aug 2005 23:02:27 -0400, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:

>>So *maybe* "pogy bait" was originally parsed as "pogy as bait" rather
>>than "bait for pogies" (cf. "boy toy" = "boy as toy" vs. "toy for
>>boys"). Then as the expression moved beyond New England fishermen the
>>halieutic sense was lost, and "pogy bait" was reinterpreted as "bait
>>for (semantically opaque) pogies". Then of course "pogy" needed to be
>>made transparent, so it was reinterpreted to mean someone who could be
>> easily lured. Presto!
>>OK, it's a bit far-fetched. But if this conjecture pans out, shouldn't
>>we call this chain of reanalysis a semantic bait-and-switch?
>It's not so far-fetched IMHO, although I myself tentatively consider it
>less likely. Note that "pogy as bait" and "bait to attract pogies" are
>not the only possibilities, in principle. Cf. "jailbait", which refers
>neither to "jail as bait" nor to "bait to attract jails".

And just to confuse matters even further, "pogey" can also mean "jail"...

--Ben Zimmer

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