[Ads-l] gearhead (1967, 1973)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 29 12:55:01 EST 2017

The text might be considered ambiguous. The phrase "gear head centers"
might refer to a place with many pieces of hardware instead of car
enthusiasts. I guess that ambiguity would provide a fun mechanism for
the creation of the slang term.

On Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 12:39 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Below is an instance of "gear head" meaning car enthusiast in 1972.
> The url for the newspaper page is absurdly long because
> fultonhistory.com urls include highlighting information. I can send
> you the url or the PDF via email if you wish, Ben. Alternatively,
> perform an "exact phrase" search for "leading gear head" at
> fultonhistory and you will see the match.
> Google indexes the newspaper pages of fultonhistory, but the coverage
> is incomplete or defective.
> Date: April 27, 1972
> Newspaper: The Virden Recorder
> Newspaper Location: Virden Illinois
> Section: The Bulldog Growl - Virden High School
> Volume 9, Number 29
> Article: Speedway daredevils
> Quote Page 6, Column 4
> Database: FultonHistory.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> Speedway daredevils
> In spring, a young man's fancy
> supposedly turns to love. But not so
> of a particular species of male
> found in one of the leading gear head
> centers of the world; the death
> defying, daredevilish Virden
> Speedshifters. Yes, you heard
> right, and in case you are
> wondering where all the racing
> takes place, the main strip is on the
> West Fortune Speedway, "where
> the big ones run, run, run!"
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 9:20 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>> This Jalopnik article looks at the early use of "gearhead":
>> https://jalopnik.com/heres-the-surprisingly-short-history-of-the-word-gearhe-1821629135
>> It cites HDAS, which includes examples from students quoted by JL from 1974
>> using "gearhead" to refer to an engineering or math student. OED3 has the
>> "car enthusiast" sense from 1975.
>> In this example from 1967, "gearhead" seems to refer to an overly studious
>> person, particularly in the sciences (quoting Rick Carpenter, junior
>> linebacker and chemistry major at Central State University in Wilberforce,
>> OH):
>> ---
>> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/16079109/gearhead_1967/
>> Xenia (Ohio) Daily Gazette, Nov. 3, 1967, p. 6
>> He has a 3.7 average but insists, "I'm not a gearhead. I never get buried
>> in my books. That's what was wrong at the University of Cincinnati when I
>> was there. I got in with a bunch of guys who just studied all the time.
>> Here at Central State I get a chance to study and play football."
>> ---
>> Here's the earliest example I've found of "gearhead" meaning "car
>> enthusiast," though the writer suggests that it was used earlier, when he
>> was in high school:
>> ---
>> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/16079764/gearhead_1973/
>> Waukesha (Wisc.) Daily Freeman, Oct. 10, 1973, p. 8
>> Back in high school we called them gearheads. They were the guys who were
>> wrapped up in their cars. Most of them had oil in their veins instead of
>> blood... This reporter thought that gearheads were an extinct breed until a
>> recent encounter with one of them on Main St.
>> ---
>> --Ben
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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