[Ads-l] gearhead (1967, 1973)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 29 13:08:57 EST 2017


Thanks, Garson. Here's a direct link to the page image for the 1972 example.

http://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2018/Virden%20IL%20Reporter/Virden%20IL%20Recorder%201972/Virden%20IL%20Recorder%201972%20-%200318.pdf

I agree it might be a bit ambiguous, but a later hit for "gearhead" from
the same source makes it clear that we're talking about car enthusiasts of
the hot-rodder variety.

Virden (Ill.) Recorder, Sept. 19, 1974, p. 6A
The cars will be wacky, weird, or just plain old "gearhead" cars.
http://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2018/Virden%20IL%20Reporter/Virden%20IL%20Recorder%201974/Virden%20IL%20Recorder%201974%20-%201003.pdf


On Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 12:55 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.
> Garson
>
> 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.
> >> ---
>

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