square from Delaware (1939)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Sep 4 02:26:52 UTC 2008

On Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 9:59 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> But in what sense does any of these cites constitute the "origin" of
> the term? Doesn't "origin' include such information as semantics and
> etymology? Why "square" and not "circle," for example?

Oh, I was just floating the idea that "square" in the relevant sense
could have originated as a shortened form of "square from Delaware",
which in turn might have started out as not much more than a funny
rhyme along the lines of the others in the 1939 Dan Burley cite (Lane
from Spokane, killer from Manila, Home from Rome). Then when it was
established as a pejorative term for an unhip outgrouper, the "from
Delaware" part could be dropped. Just a theory...

--Ben Zimmer

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

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