[Ads-l] Antedating of "Wacko"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 23 18:30:47 EDT 2017


If "w(h)acko" could even describe a good bargain (as in the Dec. 20, 1932
cite), then "terrific" would work as a gloss. Elsewhere it seems to mean
"fun, entertaining." Ron "Wacko" Shand's "eccentric dancing, quips, and
oddities" may be a bit of a red herring in terms of its meaning Down Under.


On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 4:08 PM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

> In browsing through some wacko "whacko" references yesterday, I got the
> impression that it was Australian slang with a positive connotation.
>
>
> It doesn't seem to have meant wacko, wacky, crazy as it does in the US.
>
>
> "'It's terrific' America says, but Australia says 'whacko'."
>
> "How They Say it in Australia," The Baltimore Sun, June 29, 1941, The Week
> Magazine, page 15 (Newspapers.com).
>
>
> "Should a kindly host pour me a noble Montrachet with my filet de sole,
> nothing in the world is going to stop me from shouting 'Eureka' or
> 'Whacko'."
>
> "The Finer Points of Ettiquette," Sydney Morning Herald, November 6, 1949,
> page 2 (Newspapers.com).
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Ben
> Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 12:31:50 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: Antedating of "Wacko"
>
> ---------------------- 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 "Wacko"
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> -------------------
>
> A few more to puzzle over...
>
> "a wacko night"
> Cairns Post, Queensland, July 13, 1932, p. 2
> http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/41161761?searchTerm=wacko
>
> "a Whack-o bargain"
> Cairns Post, Queensland, Dec. 20, 1932, p. 2
> http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/41194803?searchTerm=whack-o
>
> "a 'Whacko' dance"
> South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus, NSW, Feb. 3, 1933, p. 18
> http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/143036249?searchTerm=whacko
>
> "a wacko supper"
> Cairns Post, Queensland, Dec. 28, 1934, p. 2
> http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/41546343?searchTerm=wacko
>
>
> On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 3:16 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > 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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