"bee" from buzzing rather than socializing?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Apr 24 00:31:47 UTC 2013


At 4/14/2013 11:45 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>   The OED's earliest citation for "bee" (sense 4) is:
>    1769   Boston Gaz. 16 Oct.,   Last Thursday about twenty young
>Ladies met at the house of Mr. L. on purpose for a Spinning Match;
>(or what is called in the Country a Bee).

Following up on my speculation that, considering
that the first "bee" was for spinning, the source
of "bee" for a gathering or contest came not from
-- or at least not only from --  the "social
character of the insect" (OED, sense 4) but
rather from the buzzing sound of spinning wheels.  From GBooks:
----------

"Humming-Birds. ... In their flight, they make a
buzzing noise, not unlike a spinning-wheel : whence they have their name."

1813.  _A Companion to the London Museum and
Pantherion ...._.  By William Bullock.  The
Fifteenth Edition.  London.  Page 51.

----------

"The minister's spinning-bee created a world of
wholesome excitement in Norwich ; ... Up to the
last day, and late at night, spinning-wheels were
in full run, and the buzz of spindles and whirr
of flyers, filled the calm stillness long after
the neighborhood was usually in bed."

1863 _The Rejected Wife_.  By Ann Sophia Stephens.  Page 253.

----------

"As they drew near the farm-house a strange sound
fell on their ears; it was as if a million of
beehives were in full blast of buzzing in the
air. ... 'What can that be, now?' exclaimed
Donald. Before the words had left his lips, Katie
cried, 'It's a bee! -- Elspie's spinning bee.'  /
The spinning bees are great fĂȘtes among the
industrious maidens of Prince Edward Island."

1885 Nov.  Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol.
71, No. 426, p. 876, col. 1.  "The Captain of the
'Heather Bell'."  [No author; another GBooks
source, dated 1898, says Helen Hunt Jackson, in _Between Whiles_.]

----------

Joel

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