[Ads-l] an early "high fluting" (1838)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jul 18 20:48:38 UTC 2015

> On Jul 18, 2015, at 3:19 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> On Sat, Jul 18, 2015 at 8:53 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
>> about Polly and me
> Shouldn't that be, "about Polly and I"? :-(
> On a serious tip, is there any reason to assume that "fluting" is the
> original form, as well as the oldest? Or are there still not enough data
> for anyone to make an assertion?
The OED has an interesting tale to tell (note the 1836 cite).  (<"high-saluting"?  <Yiddish?  talk about speculative!)


highfalutin, adj.
Etymology:  Origin uncertain; perhaps (i) < high adv. + a second element perhaps representing a variant pronunciation (with epenthetic vowel) of fluting adj. (perhaps with reference to the sound of affected speech, although see also note below),
or perhaps (ii) an arbitrary alteration of high-flying adj. (compare high-flying adj. 2) or high-flown adj., perhaps influenced by flight v.
The first possibility listed above is supported by the following slightly earlier example, in which high feluting apparently occurs as an alteration of high fluting with literal reference to the high sounds produced by a flute player; familiarity with the context in this song may have prompted wider use in the meaning ‘pretentious, affected’:
1836   U.S. Songster 216,   I play upon de cymbal an I makes de handsome sound, I's a high feluting nigger dat dey calls Jim Brown.
Other suggestions include influence from U.S. English †high-saluting performing the regulation military salute precisely, apparently used (in military slang) in a derogatory manner to refer to men who were perceived to be trying to ingratiate themselves with officers (early 19th cent.; compare Comments on Etymol. (1987) 14 xiii.–xiv. 2-6), but the connection seems tenuous. Suggestions involving words from other languages pose formal and semantic problems; a putative Yiddish etymon has not been traced.

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