URGENT antedating needed: "the race card"

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Aug 1 20:02:06 UTC 2008

On Fri, Aug 01, 2008 at 03:42:13PM -0400, Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 3:34 PM -0400 8/1/08, Laurence Horn wrote:
> >Hi,
> >
> >A N. Y. Times reporter (not connected with Safire's column!) needs
> >urgently to know what the history/origin of "the race card" is, for a
> >piece he's writing in this Sunday's Week in Review.  I will seek to
> >make sure whoever has something for him will be credited.  Let's make
> >sure his work on this is as accurate as it can be given the time
> >pressure.
> >
> >LH
> >
> P.S.  two more points:
>  (i)  If it's not obvious from the context, he's interested in the
> current political use (as in "play[ing] ___ [from the bottom of the
> deck]"), not the equine competition sense cited in the OED.

The OED does have an entry that covers this, _to play the
(race, etc.)  card_ s.v. _play_ v. 19.b.(c). The earliest
example is 1886, for _to play the Orange card_; we only cite
_race card_ in one example, from 1994, but if it's in a
quotation paragraph with a bunch of other things, we wouldn't
bother to find the earliest for that particular form.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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