non-chuck (1972), nunchuck (1974)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Jul 16 04:56:13 UTC 2009

My latest Word Routes column is on "nunchucks," the martial arts
weapons that made a surprise appearance in the Sotomayor hearings:

The OED draft entry for "nunchuck" has as its first cite a 1980
article with the variant "numchuck". Here are antedatings:

1972 _State of New Jersey v. Israel Danziger_ (121 N.J. Super. 44; 296
A.2d 69) Defendants Danziger and Schwartz were each charged, in
separate complaints, with "having upon him" an offensive or dangerous
weapon, namely "1 Karate weapon (non chuck) and 5 (pipe) bludgeons"...
The "non-chuck" (which is not described or defined in the record) and
the other four pipes or bludgeons were in the space behind the seats
occupied by defendants.

1974 _Black Belt_ Feb. 8 Police began complaining that nunchucks
(colloquial) were contributing to violence in Los Angeles.

(_Black Belt_ is now on Google Books in full view from 1962 onwards,
so that should help with various martial arts terms.)

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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