"turn chicken"; "chicken," adj.: antedatings

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 6 19:20:29 UTC 2011


1907 Owen Masters in _The Advance_ (July 11) 41:  Nevertheless she rose
intending to go back to the house, when she heard the hoarse voice of the
discharged workman—Job Marsh.

"Hello, matey," he said. "You're 'arf-an-hour late. I was thinking that
you'd turned chicken."

"Chicken yourself!" retorted another voice. "We ain't got to meet Moore till
four o'clock, an' I've been having a say to the cashier. I tell you the
manager's got us in a tight place an' I don't feel healthy. He swears we go
to limbo if we don't make a clean breast of it. The cashier's dead nuts on
him as well."

Remarkable as the earliest "turn chicken" by far, as well as for being


1932 Virgil Markham _The Devil Drives_ (N.Y.: Knopf) 88: "Do I look like a
sap?" I asked. "It's not what I want--"

"Getting chicken on account of Raffy?" she mocked. "Well, we can go some
place where they don't know us, can't we?"

This looks real (from GB), but it's only a snippet.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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