[Ads-l] mammoth, adj.

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 23 13:59:59 UTC 2015

On Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 3:42 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
> The two citations below do not antedate the adjectival use of mammoth,
> but they may be of interest. The first cite contains the phrase
> "Mammoth of Democracy" which apparently referred to the new U. S.
> President Thomas Jefferson. So Mammoth was being used figuratively for
> Jefferson by February.
> Date: February 10, 1801
> Newspaper: The North-Carolina Minerva (The Raleigh Minerva)
> Newspaper Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
> Article Title: Communication
> Quote Page: 3
> Column: 3
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> In the business of the ensuing "Hobson's choice" of President of the
> United States, it behoves the federalists in Congress to make the
> strongest opposition in their power the great Mammoth of Democracy.
> [End excerpt]

That same quote appears a little earlier, in the Columbian Centinel
(Boston), Jan. 21, 1801, p. 2, col. 4, as well as some other papers.
And I see some references to Jefferson as "(the) Mammoth" in late
1800. This is before the excavation of the mastodon skeleton in
Newburgh, NY that evidently inspired the naming of the "Mammoth
Cheese." As Geoff Nathan points out elsethread, Jefferson was already
associated with "mammoths" due to his paleontological interests.


Ben Zimmer

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

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