The (holy) cow: Bossie or Bessie?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Apr 27 22:14:02 UTC 2006

I've heard both Bessie and Bossy.  BTW, OED is reluctant to derive the latter (earlier "Boss") from Latin.


Barbara Need <nee1 at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Barbara Need
Subject: Re: The (holy) cow: Bossie or Bessie?

>It's my impression that once English speakers stopped
>learning Latin, the bovinym "Bossie" became opaque, and so
>it was replaced (by folk-etymology or whatever) with the
>more ordinary female name "Bessie."

I have never heard the name Bessie for a cow. Bossie or (as noted
elsewhere) Elsie are cow names--and I would say Bossie was more
prototypical (for me) than Elsie.


Barbara Need

>---- Original message ----
>>Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2006 17:41:40 -0400
>>From: Wilson Gray
>>Subject: Re: Holy cow! (1917)
>>---------------------- Information from the mail header ----
>>Sender: American Dialect Society >L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster: Wilson Gray
>>Subject: Re: Holy cow! (1917)
>>Isn't the default name for a cow "Bossie"? Cf. various
>writings for childre=
>>and the intracampusly-famous sports cheer of the University
>of California
>>Farm, "Bossie! Bossie! Cow! Cow!"
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

Get amazing travel prices for air and hotel in one click on Yahoo! FareChase

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list