antedating: buffer

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Aug 3 22:27:48 UTC 2010

Where does this fit?

New-York Mercury, 1753 April 9, p. 4, col. 1:

Dublin, Jan. 2. Last Friday the Merry Dyer, accompanied with a
Smith-field Buffer, called Jack in the Cellar, with six other
Ruffians, robbed hear Mullingar a Grazier of sixty Guineas some
Silver, and his Watch.

If buffer, n.3, a. "a. A workman or workwoman who buffs knives,
plate, etc.    b. = BUFF n.2 4.    c. In Photography, A machine used
for polishing daguerreotype plates.", it antedates 1854.  [In fact,
there are no quotations in OED2 for the person,  just for the device.]

If buffer, n.3, " 3. A fellow: usually expressing a slight degree of
contempt.", it merely interdates 1749 -- 1835.  [This seems one of
the possible meanings, when combined with "six other Ruffians".]

If buffer, n.3, "4. Naut. A chief boatswain's mate. Also, a petty
officer.", then it antedates Jon's find.

If buffer, n.5, " (See quot.)", then it interdates 1690 -- 1874 (the
only two quotations in OD2).  [This seems equally possible.]
      1690 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Buffer, a Rogue that kills good
sound Horses, only for their Skins. 1874 J. C. HOTTEN Slang Dict.
[cites Bacchus & Venus].

If buffer, n.6, "(See quot.)", it antedates 1874.
      1874 J. C. HOTTEN Slang Dict., Buffer, the term was once
applied to those who took false oaths for a consideration.


At 8/3/2010 05:19 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>OED has this (_Naut_. A chief boatswain's mate. Also, a petty officer.) from
>1864.  Much earlier:
>ca1765-1795 _The Jolly Sailor's True Description of a Man of War_
>(broadside) in C. H. Firth, ed. _Naval Songs and Ballads_ (
>[London:] The Navy Records Society, 1908)  236: While the buffers stand with
>their rattans,/ Crying 'Keep down out of the gangway.'
>"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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