[Ads-l] Fwd: Antedating of "humdinger"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 25 00:45:16 UTC 2015


Very nice.  Do we know from the context what Steven's $5 baby cabs might be?  Given the date, I suspect they're not bottles of young cabernet, or taxis.  The OED entry for cab (sense 1) does of course encompass horse-driven hansom cabs, but baby ones?  More likely, this is an instance of sense 2, "a small erection", which on closer examination is perhaps more relevant than it sounds, corresponding to what's still called the cab of a truck (or locomotive engine), but I'm still not sure whether they'd be sold separately (as babies) for $5.  

LH

> Begin forwarded message:
> 
> From: "ADSGarson O'Toole" <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: Antedating of "humdinger"
> Date: September 24, 2015 at 7:49:41 PM EDT
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> 
> Great work Ben, Stephen and Hugo. Below is a slightly earlier instance
> of humdinger(s). This instance also appeared in a Rockford, Illinois
> newspaper. (Warning: Selection bias: That is where I looked.)
> 
> The classified advertisement below ran on several days, e.g. March 6
> and March 8, 1896.
> 
> Date: March 6, 1896
> Paper: The Morning Star
> Description: Short classified advertisement
> Quote Page 4, Column 4
> Newspaper Location: Rockford, Illinois
> Database: GenealogyBank
> 
> [Begin excerpt]
> Steven's $5 baby cabs are humding-
> ers.
> [End excerpt]
> 
> Garson
> 
> 
> On Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 6:38 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: Antedating of "humdinger"
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 
>> On Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 6:11 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> [...]
>> Stephen Goranson posted this 1896 "humdinger" from Rockford, Illinois:
>>> 
>>>> In an ad for new cabs, of five levels of quality, the best
>>>> being "A humdinger, only... [$]15.00"
>>>> 
>>>> Paper: Daily Register Gazette, published as The Rockford Daily Register
>>>> Gazette.; Date: 04-07-1896; Page: 2; col. 7 Location: Rockford, Illinois.
>>>> [Amer. Hist. News.]
>>> 
>>> I found other cites for "humdinger" in Rockford papers in 1896-97, so
>>> it was active slang there. And I also found "dinger" cites from
>>> Rockford predating the Apr. 1896 "humdinger":
>>> 
>>> ---
>>> _Daily Register-Gazette_ (Rockford, Ill.), Dec. 26, 1895, p. 3, col. 4
>>> W.A. Airis -- My trade during the holidays will exceed last year's
>>> business by several hundred dollars. I am satisfied with the business,
>>> but if the rain had only left off it would have been a dinger this
>>> year, for people seemed to have more money, but couldn't get a chance
>>> to get out and spend it on account of the disagreeable weather.
>>> ---
>>> _Daily Register-Gazette_ (Rockford, Ill.), Jan. 14, 1896, p. 7, col. 3
>>> Ira Chase will handle the Belvidere wheel next season and he says it
>>> is going to be a "dinger" in every stage of the game.
>>> ---
>> [snip]
>> 
>> Here are two earlier "dinger" cites that suggest a horse-racing origin...
>> 
>> ---
>> _Daily Register-Gazette_ (Rockford, Ill.), Nov. 24, 1894, p. 5, col. 6
>> Jim McAllister has a yearling chestnut by Morris M., 2:27 3/4, dam by
>> Signal, sire of the dam of Chief, 2:27 3/4. This filly is fast at the
>> test and is bred right. Her owner says that she is just a dinger.
>> ---
>> _Daily Register-Gazette_ (Rockford, Ill.), Jan. 5, 1895, p. 3, col. 3
>> Barney McGrahan is the proud owner of a fine chestnut colt by Morris
>> M., 2:27 3/4. Barney says it is fast and just a "dinger" and the cafe
>> business will not be anything to this fellow making money when he gets
>> him straightened away.
>> ---
>> 
>> --bgz
>> 
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