Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 2 08:46:52 UTC 2011

I am having a slight difficulty placing this one, but it seems to match
OED sponge v. 10.a.

> /intr./ To live on others in a parasitic manner; to obtain assistance
> or maintenance by mean arts.

The first citation under 10.a. is from 1673. The next two are from
dictionaries (1699, 1785). The next one is from Washington Irving
(1849). The following may offer an interesting interdate (from AHN).

Headline: [Gales; Seaton; Coalition; Washington; Henry Clay; President's
Veto]; Article Type: News/Opinion
Paper: New-Hampshire Patriot, published as New-Hampshire Patriot and
State Gazette; Date: 08-02-1830; Volume: 2; Issue: 5; Page: [3];
Location: Concord, New Hampshire
> Gales and Seaton, and their fellow sufferers of the Coalition at
> Washington, who have lost office, after having sponged the government
> for years, make great calculations on a "restoration" under Henry
> Clay, and that the President's /Veto/ will change the whole west in
> favor of their patron.

One interesting thing is that what passes here as "sponge the
government" would now be said as "sponge off the government"

OED does not have this version (although it does have another meaning of
"sponge off").

There is plenty of evidence of the contemporary meaning of "to sponge off":

> 2 examples:
> In the UK some people "sponge off" the state rather than get jobs.
> Even though she has a well paid job she still "sponges off" her parents.


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

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