Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Jun 7 15:36:43 UTC 2006

a (non-linguist) colleague reports omnipresent use of "tweak" in its
adjustment sense and wondered when the fashion for it began.  it
certainly is common in computer contexts, as you can see from a bit
of googling.  in any case, from OED2 (1989) under tweak v.:

5. To make fine adjustments to (a mechanism).

1966 Punch 16 Feb. 233/1 He has been running a Morris 1100 ‘tweaked
so it'll do nearly 100’. 1971 Daily Tel. 13 Oct. 11/1 The three-litre
V6 engines..have been ‘tweaked’ to produce eight per cent. more
power. 1978 Gramophone May 1960/1 It was possible to improve its
performance very considerably by ‘tweaking’ the internal pre-set


notice the quotation marks on these early cites; they suggest that
the writers found the usage notable (recent, rare, and/or unfamiliar).

so it's been around for some time.  the question is when it took off
and became really frequent.  and how frequent it actually is, in what
contexts.  anyone looked into this?

arnold (zwicky at

The American Dialect Society -

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