[Ads-l] money-digger n. U.S. a treasure hunter, antedated

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sun Aug 23 20:59:57 UTC 2015


money-digger   n. U.S. a treasure hunter, esp. one who believes buried
treasure can be located by divination or other mystical means.
In quot. 1769   a nickname.

1769   N.Y. Gaz. 27 Feb. 3/3   A Negro Man named Jacob,..formerly known in
this City, by the name of the Fu-Fu Negro, or Money-Digger.
1820   B. Silliman Remarks Tour Hartford & Quebec 121   Even to this
hour..new pits are excavated by the insatiable money diggers.
1870   J. De Mille Boys of Grand Pré School x. 148   We haven't any mineral
rod, nor any magic ceremonies. We're merely a plain, hard-working crowd;
not of money-diggers, but of archæologists.
1998   New Republic (Electronic ed.) 23 Feb.   Smith and many of his
contemporaries became avid money-diggers.

The 1769 citation, "the Fu-Fu Negro, or Money-Digger", is in my notes, and
may well have come from an earlier posting here.  But anyway, here is a
even earlier citation:

            WHEREAS great Abuses are daily committed at my Farm, in several
Respects, such as taking down of Fences, that not only strange Cattle enter
my Land, but my own Cattle destroy my Crop and mowing Fields  ***  I will
also give a Reward of Five Pounds, to know, by good Proof, who those
Persons are who dig such great Holes in my Lands in the Night Time, to the
great Damage of my People, and others, as also of my Cattle.  It is said
those are Money Diggers: Let those Gentlemen, if any among them, come to
me, and I will give them Liberty to dig in the Day Time, if they will fill
up the Holes of their Night's Work, and then I will give them the two
Spades, and one Pickaxe they left behind them.  Nicholas Bayard.
            N-Y Gazette [Weyman’s], May 17, 1762, p. 3, col. 3


George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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