antedating of golf "Mulligan" 1936

Gerald Cohen gcohen at MST.EDU
Tue Dec 30 21:36:56 UTC 2008

A few days ago Sam Clements independently located the May 5, 1936
attestation of golf "mulligan," but it turns out that Paul Dickson got there
first (sorry, Sam). Below my signoff is the first part of William Safire's
"On Language" column; see the last paragraph.

Btw, with regard to the etymology reported by Safire, he correctly comments:
'A nice tale, but with ³no contemporary attestation².'

G. Cohen

*   *   *   *

NY Times
March 23, 2008

On Language

Mulligan Primary

Or a firehouse caucus?

Democrats are in a mulligan stew. That thick, rich soup is a hodgepodge of
leftover vegetables, potatoes, onions, stale bread and scraps of meat,
spiced with the views of assorted pollsters, walkie-talking heads and
superdelegates. An early appearance of the Irish-sounding word can be found
in The Yukon Midnight Sun in Alaska in 1904: ³All the roadhouses served big
Christmas dinners and most of them made a mulligan.²

You don¹t need that information, or to know that mulligan must not be
confused with the curry-flavored mulligatawny soup of East Indian origin.
But to stay politically au courant, you do need to know the other meaning of
the mysteriously eponymous noun mulligan, which is now being bandied about
as an adjective in the slipstream media.

Early this month, Robert Siegel, a host of NPR¹s ³All Things Considered,²
asked the governor of Florida, Charles Crist (a Republican who prefers the
lovably informal ³Charlie,² but I resist appellative manipulation), about
³what some are calling the redo ‹ the mulligan primary.² Next day, on CNN,
Bill Schneider opined about ³what I call mulligan primaries or contests of
some sort ‹ that is, do-overs . . . ² The Washington Post promptly demanded
to know: ³Should the presidential primary season include mulligans?²

Who is Mulligan, and what is he that all media swains commend him? Nancy
Stulack, archivist at the U.S. Golf Association, said that the story most
widely accepted focuses on a gentleman named David Mulligan who played golf
at a club outside Montreal in the 1920s. As he teed off, his first swing
sliced the ball into the nearby woods; refusing to accept that, Mulligan
apologized to his golfing partners, took out a fresh golf ball and teed off
again. His friends understood his frustration and allowed what later became
known as a mulligan, or ³extra stroke in a friendly game, not counted on the
scorecard.² Mulligan thus achieved fame in eponymy in the company of the
hated Captain Boycott, the beloved earl of Sandwich and the daring Amelia

A nice tale, but with ³no contemporary attestation²; the serious slangsleuth
Paul Dickson reports the earliest print citation to be an A.P. dispatch of
May 5, 1936, crediting the use of mulligan to Marvin McIntyre, an aide to
F.D.R., which the reporter defined as ³links-ology for the second shot
employed after the previously dubbed shot.² The word was popularized in the
coverage of President Eisenhower¹s golf outings.

On 12/28/08 1:37 PM, "Sam Clements" <SClements at NEO.RR.COM> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
> Subject:      antedating of golf "Mulligan" 1936
> Ben Zimmer and I have been playing tag with this one for some years.  I =
> found 1938(Henry McLemore, the sports writer) and Ben found that =
> McLemore had used it in 1937.
> Using Newspaperarchive, _Big Springs(TX) Daily Herald_  May 5 1936 4/5
> A story about FDR's press secretary, Marvin McIntyre, who seems to have =
> been an avid golfer(from searching around papers of the time).
>    "Another McIntyre-ism is the use of the 'mulligan'---links-ology for =
> a second shot employed after a previously dubbed shot."
> Sam Clements
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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