[Ads-l] "dumpster diver" -- early, but is it an antedating?

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Sat Nov 28 22:22:23 UTC 2015

Garson and Peter --

Of the three forms I am concerned with only one, "dumpster diver".  Only with additional information can we determine whether Trudeau's 1985 "Doonesbury" usage precedes or follows the 1985 May 7 "Computer Decisions" quote.

I suspect the Doonesbury quote is later than May, since the website's "Timeline" puts the influence of the strip on "In Florida the so-called "Doonesbury Bill" is introduced, challenging a Palm Beach law requiring servants to carry ID cards" at Oct. 1, 1985, and the reprints of Trudeau's take on Palm Beach appeared about a month ago, starting Oct. 12 (see ADS-L archives, Oct. 20).


 From: ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
To: Joel Berson <berson at att.net> 
Sent: Saturday, November 28, 2015 4:35 PM
Subject: Re: "dumpster diver" -- early, but is it an antedating?

The Oxford English Dictionary has at least three separate pertinent entries:

dumpster diving, noun: first citation July 1983
dumpster diver, noun: May 7, 1985
dumpster-dive, verb: first citation May 17, 1985

Below are details for the initial citations for each of the three entries.

[Begin excerpt]
dumpster diving, n.
Etymology: < dumpster n. + diving n. Compare slightly later dumpster-dive v.
The practice of searching through a rubbish container (esp. a dumpster
or skip) for food, items of value, etc.

1983 Life July 39 (caption) Rat and Mike call rummaging for food in
trash bins behind restaurants dumpster diving.
[End excerpt]

[Begin excerpt]
dumpster diver, n.
Forms:  also with capital initial.
Etymology:  < dumpster n. + diver n. Compare slightly earlier dumpster
diving n., and also dumpster-dive v.
A person who engages in dumpster diving.

1985 Computer Decisions 7 May 80/3 So-called 'dumpster divers' have
sometimes gleaned valuable information--carefully protected on
disk--from discarded papers.
[End excerpt]

[Begin excerpt]
dumpster-dive, v.
Forms: also with capital initial.
Etymology: < dumpster n. + dive v. Compare slightly earlier dumpster
diving n., and also dumpster diver n.
intr. To search through a rubbish container (esp. a dumpster or skip)
for food, items of value, etc.

1985  G. B. Trudeau in Boston Globe 17 May 59/1 (cartoon caption) 'I
met her dumpster-diving behind Trader Vic's.' 'A magical night. Some
of the spare ribs had barely been touched.'
[End excerpt]

Below is a citation for "dumpster dives" which might be a verb form.
If it is a verb then it antedates the Trudeau's May 17 citation.

Date: May 11, 1985
Newspaper: Daily Breeze
Newspaper Location: Torrance, California
Article: Survival aim of 'Streetwise' children
Author/Byline: Susan Christian
Database: NewsBank Access World News

[Begin excerpt]
For meals, Rat "dumpster dives." "You get to know your reg (regular
trash bin). You can tell what's five days old and what just got put in
last night," he explains.
[End excerpt]

The match located by Peter Morris seems to be for "dumpster diving",
and the OED currently has a citation in July 1983 for "dumpster

Year: 1984
Periodical: Forbes
Volume 134
Quote Page GB 225
Google Books Snippet View - Data may be inaccurate

[Begin extracted text]
That's why one of the favorite pastimes of credit crooks is “dumpster
diving” for discarded sales draft carbons; with those they can obtain
valid card numbers and then emboss those numbers on a counterfeit
card. There are 720 million credit ...
[End extracted text]


On Sat, Nov 28, 2015 at 11:43 AM, Joel Berson <berson at att.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:      Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      "dumpster diver" -- early, but is it an antedating?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "We're talking now with T-Bird Jones, who plays drums for the Dumpster Dive=
> rs and who resides on a steam grate near the State Department."
> 1985, Gary Trudeau, "Doonesbury."=C2=A0 Reprinted 2015 Nov. 28, Boston Glob=
> e, page 12B col. 1.=C2=A0 De-capitalization is mine.
> The earliest quotation in OED3 (June 2005) is 1985 Computer Decisions 7 May=
> .
> Month and day of the Trudeau quotation unknown to me.=C2=A0 I suspect the d=
> ate of 11-28 in the bottom right corner of the first panel is the date of t=
> he reprint (today), not the date of the original publication.=C2=A0 I've as=
> ked the Doonesbury site, but maybe someone with greater access and ingenuit=
> y than I can uncover the month/day.
> In any case, perhaps the quotation will have to be bracketed.
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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