Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Aug 14 15:54:14 UTC 2012

At 8/14/2012 08:35 AM, Baker, John wrote:
>Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
>I think it's well-established that the beliefs of early
>knowledgeable users of a new term are valuable evidence, although of
>course they may be wrong.

Within 10 years (accepting the 1892 date from Douglas and progressing
to the 1899 and 1900 dates in the OED) there were at least four
meanings in use for "mutt" -- some kind of disreputable child, a
mongrel dog, a poor racehorse, and an incompetent person.  (Not to
mention a Hindu monastery.)  And within another 10 years,
"explanations" of the origin.

The incompetent person might be associated with "muttonhead",
although there's a large gap between its 1803 and the 1900 "mutt".

But the other three don't seem to have an obvious connection with
muttonhead, just with each other (as something deprecated as
worthless).  So which came first, the chicken ... er, the child, the
dog, or the horse?  And from what egg?


>It's probably more relevant that this shows that "mutt" was
>established usage by trainers of setters and pointers.  I suspect
>this undercuts the suggested derivation from "mutton dog," although
>I would certainly be open to further insights on this.
>John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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