[Ads-l] Antedating of "Wacko"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 23 15:16:04 EDT 2017


As Stephen notes, there are numerous cites for "w(h)acko" in the Australian
newspapers in the 1930s, often as an interjection or a nickname. Much of
the usage seems to stem from theatrical shows that were popular there in
the mid-'30s -- one comic actor, Ron Shand, went by "Wacko" (or "Whacko")
and was known for his "eccentric dancing, quips and oddities of face and
gesture":

Townsville Daily Bulletin, Queensland, Aug. 27, 1934, p. 3
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/61971445?searchTerm=whacko

The association with comedic theater may help explain such collocations as
these:

"a 'whacko' dinner"
Western Mail, Perth, Apr. 12, 1934, p. 29
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/38023211?searchTerm=whacko

"a 'Wacko' ball"
Guyra Argus, NSW, Aug. 13, 1936, p. 3
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/173626999?searchTerm=wacko

...and perhaps the "wacko gown range" in Garson's 1939 cite.


On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 6:57 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> Several early Australian uses at:
> http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/
> Newspapers Home - Trove<http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/>
> trove.nla.gov.au
> A searchable database from The National Library of Australia.
>
>
>
>   Stephen
>
> rom: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <...>
> Sent: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 10:51 PM
> To: ...
> Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Antedating of "Wacko"
>
> Here is "wacko" used as an adjective in 1939 although the meaning is
> not completely clear.
>
> Date: October 26, 1939
> Newspaper: The Sydney Morning Herald
> Newspaper Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
> Quote Page 1, Column 2
>
>
> 26 Oct 1939, Page 1 - The Sydney Morning Herald at Newspapers.com
>
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> "ESQUIRE'S"
> THURSDAY TABLE-TALK
>
> How do you do?
>
> IT'S A TALE OF TWO CITIES. London and Paris. Two cities that have sent
> "The S. for M." the highest highlights of its very wacko (what was
> that?) gown range. Pure silks they are, in colours and patterns about
> as easy to describe without diagram as pons assinorum.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> On Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 10:27 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> > On Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 10:18 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >> On Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 9:34 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>
> >>> On Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 9:08 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu>
> >>> wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> wacko (OED 1977)
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>> 1965 _The Realist_ 1 Feb. 22/2 (Independent Voices)  Hey nures [sic],
> >>>> you better give him a shot or something, he's goin' wacko!
> >>>>
> >>>
> >>> Good cite for the adjective. In '06, I provided antedatings for "wacko"
> >>> as a noun going back to 1938 (also OED2 1977).
> >>>
> >>>
> >> Make that 1936 (with the "whacko" spelling).
> >>
> >> State Journal (Lansing, Mich.), Apr. 2, 1936, p. 13, col. 5
> >> "That One Small Word: Why? Dominates Hauptmann Case"
> >> Courtney Ryley Cooper (International News Service)
> >> They've got to pick some whacko who won't want the state capital
> building
> >> in return for false imprisonment.
> >
> > Here's adjectival "whack-o" from 1943.
> >
> > News Journal (Wilmington, Del.), Jan. 30, 1943, p. 15, col. 4
> > "The Payoff" (Harry Grayson, NEA Service Sports Editor)
> > Because of his greater variety of stuff while he was winning from 21 to
> 26
> > games a year, not a few trained observers rated Lefty Gomez the superior
> of
> > Lefty Grove, but the gay caballero will be remembered for whack-o
> > witticisms.
>

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