Mon Aug 13 20:11:12 UTC 2012

        I haven't had a change to check HDAS, but the following, from 1906, is not in the OED:

        <<Mutt:  A dog which possesses none of the valuable attributes of a class dog, or one which is lacking in aggressive, independent hunting instincts, even if he is successful in finding birds, is referred to as a mutt.  This word is probably a corruption of mutton or muttonhead, and is the most contemptuous term in field trial nomenclature.>>

William A. Bruette, Modern Breaking:  A Treatise on the Rearing, Breaking and Handling of Setters and Pointers 46 (1906) (Google Books full text).  Bruette is listed as the copyright holder, but no author is specified on the title page, so the attribution to him may be somewhat conjectural.  The quoted passage is in a chapter on nomenclature.

        This seems to show that the term was an established one for trainers of setters and pointers by 1906, and it also provides early support for the derivation from "muttonhead."

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Garson O'Toole
Sent: Sunday, August 12, 2012 10:39 PM
Subject: Re: Mutt

JL wrote: HDAS cites Lewis's work.

Thanks, JL. I apologize for missing the fact that you cited
"Sandburrs" in the extraordinary and comprehensive HDAS. List members
may still benefit from or enjoy looking at the many instances "mut"
present in "Sandburrs".  At least one story included the theme of dog
fighting, but I have not reviewed all the instances of "mut" to see if
one referred to a dog.

About one decade later the theory that "mutt" was derived from
"muttonhead" was discussed or alluded to in the cites below. Of
course, the suggested analysis may be a flawed reconstruction.

Cite: 1910 August 31, Evening Times Makeshift Words, Page 4, Column 1
and 2, Grand Forks, North Dakota. (GenealogyBank)
[Begin excerpt]
"Saphead," an old word, is said to owe its first syllable to sappy, in
the sense of immature. One might wish it a more exalted derivation,
since "sapient," cut down in irony, would, explain as well. "Mutt,"
although sponsored by no dictionary as yet, is easily "muttonhead"
sublimated in the crucible of scorn.
[End excerpt]

Cite: 1911 June 2, Kansas City Star, Sheep, Page 6A, Column 2, Kansas
City, Missouri. (GenealogyBank)
[Begin excerpt]
But, aside from that, a sheep is a silly animal. While trading on its
assumed superiority over its more modest cousin, its plentiful lack of
wit has not escaped discerning eyes. "Mutton-head" is interchangeable
with numbskull. A mutt has no higher standing in the intellectual
world that a dub or a slob. In the vernacular of Wall Street a lamb is
the equivalent of an easy mark.
[End excerpt]
Typos likely. I cannot read the word written as "dub" above.

Cite: 1911 June 12, Augusta Chronicle, "Boob" And Others, Page 6,
Column 2, Augusta, Georgia. (GenealogyBank)
[Begin excerpt]
Then there is "simp" which is a lot more forceful than "simpleton,"
"mutt" than "muttonhead," "bo" than hobo, "con," than confidence, and
"fan" than fanatic. Human nature has a taste for shortening things ...
[End excerpt]


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