[Ads-l] gearhead (1967, 1973)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 29 13:24:55 EST 2017


The Jalopnik article has now been updated with the antedatings that Garson
and I found.

https://jalopnik.com/heres-the-surprisingly-short-history-of-the-word-gearhe-1821629135

On Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 1:08 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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