ditty bag

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Thu Jun 18 15:32:27 UTC 2009

Original message from  Michael Sheehan, Thu 6/18/2009 9:18 AM:

Has anyone broken through to the origin of ditty in ditty-bag? I keep bumping up against "origin unknown."


 The following website discusses the  sailors' term "ditty bag" in some detail, including the effort to find its etymology, but there is thus far no conclusive answer:
http://www.frayedknotarts.com/files/dittybagbox.html <http://www.frayedknotarts.com/files/dittybagbox.html> 
   Here is an excerpt from the website:
'...In 1923 an answer to a query in  the Mariners Mirror on the origin of the bag and the derivation of the word ditty bag and ditty box, emphasized the ambiguity of the origins of these names.  They pursued the word dight, in the Oxford Dictionary, a word with  many meanings, but one is, "to repair, put to rights, put in order".  It is said that this word's latest use in general speech was in 1580, but that it occurs in dialect as late as 1877.  It can be assumed that from these sorts of 
origins the word found its way afloat.  An alternative theory suggests that the word came from Scotland or northern England, and that it could have been derived from the term, "dudds", "duddies", or "duiddies" denoting 
cloths, especially working cloths. ...'

Gerald Cohen

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

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