[Ads-l] on the origins of the (muttly [not in OED]) English language

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 19 04:44:24 UTC 2015


> On Nov 18, 2015, at 11:18 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> On Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 7:59 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
> 
>> "mutt" is a truncation of "mutton-head(ed)".  Who knew?
>> 
> 
> Even in the meaning of "dog of random ancestry"? Were such dogs considered
> to be
> "mutton-headed" in some sense no longer obvious?

Seems like "mutton-head(ed)" was well established through the 19th c. with the sense 'a dull or stupid person' (I guess there's a kind of "silly sheep" connection) before truncating to "mutt" as a derogatory designation for horses ('A racehorse, esp. a slow one; any horse in poor condition', first cite in 1899), dogs ('A dog, esp. a mongrel', first cite 1900), and humans ('A person who is awkward, ignorant, or blundering; an incompetent, a fool', also first cite 1900).  1899-1900 was obviously the Year(s) of the Mutt, across species.

LH
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