cootie etymology?

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Thu Oct 4 11:24:48 UTC 2012

Yes, I wasn't originally going to mention etymology at all, and then in
the video room I was asked, and I realized I had forgotten the long
discussion we had about it here, and I just threw out the Malay thing.

Jesse Sheidlower

On Thu, Oct 04, 2012 at 09:35:27AM +0000, Stephen Goranson wrote:
> In a video at OED Appeal Jesse Sheidlower said of cootie: "It comes from a Malay word referring to an insect." That is what OED gives.
> On this list there was considerable discussion of the etymology of cooties. If I recall correctly, little support was offered for the Malay proposal.
> More support was expressed for a different etymology. Here, for instance, was Jonathan  Lighter:
> Re: "as lousy as a coot"
> Thu, 9 Jul 2009 11:57:09 -040
> What I think happened:
> "lousy as a coot" > "cooty" (adj.) = "lousy, as is a coot" >  "coot"
> (back-formation)and "cootie" (through mishearing and in other cases as a
> diminutive).
> JL
> ***
> Also noted at Language Hat:
> Update (July 2009). It looks as if the true etymology is less exotic [than Malay]; it's simply an extension of coot (there was a proverbial phrase "as lousy as a coot"). See these American Dialect Society listserv postings:...
> Stephen Goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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