Antedating of "humdinger"

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Jan 10 14:58:11 UTC 2014

In an ad for new cabs, of five levels of quality, the best being "A humdinger, only… [$]15.00"

Paper: Daily Register Gazette, published as The Rockford Daily Register-Gazette.; Date: 04-07-1896; Page: 2; col. 7 Location: Rockford, Illinois. [Amer. Hist. News.]

Stephen Goranson
From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Hugo [hugovk at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Friday, January 10, 2014 8:21 AM
Subject: [ADS-L] Antedating of "humdinger"

"humdinger" (OED: 1905)

The Butte Inter Mountain, January 27, 1902:


[Denver Republican.]

If it were not for the fact that he is from the staid and conservative
Keystone state, that has never encouraged wind-jamming politicians, it
might be suspected that Representative Sibley was trying to make
himself popular by using the brand of oratory that stampeded the
democratic national convention in 1896.

When a man gets up in congress and says that the present
accomplishment of irrigation will be "pressing a poisoned chalice to
the lips of the farming classes of this nation," it is time for the
people to look out for another boy orator.

But we fear that Mr. Sibley was so intent on springing his "poisoned
chalice" smile on congress that he lost sight of any such trifling
thing as truth in his speech. We admit that the metaphor, epigram, or
whatever Mr. Sibley choose to call it, is one of the architectural
wonders of word construction.

We have analyzed it from all sides -- full face, three-quarters and
profile, and we can find no laws in it from the stand-point of the
debating society. It is rhetorical humdinger that will doubtless be
accepted as standard, and that will figure in many a country
schoolhouse debate.


Also, the OED entry says "Etymology:  Origin unknown".

I think it's likely, as suggested by Wentworth & Flexner, Dictionary
of American Slang (1961), that "humdinger" comes from the earlier 1809
"dinger". The OED "dinger" entry even includes "humdinger" in the


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