[Ads-l] snollygoster (1845)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 7 12:53:02 EST 2017

In its latest update, Merriam-Webster restored "snollygoster" to the
Collegiate, as it has made a comeback after falling out of use:


Merriam's note says there's evidence from 1846. That matches the OED, where
the first cite is:

1846  Commonwealth (Frankfort, Kentucky) 7 Apr. 2/6  Now here I am a rale
propelling, double revolving locomotive Snolly Goster, ready to attack

That cite was first reported in American Speech by Hans Sperber in 1953:


As Sperber notes, the Commonwealth credited the Delaware State Journal, but
the item was described as "a Hoosier's description of his first sight of a
locomotive." Clearly the story had already traveled extensively by then.
Jon Lighter posted a slightly earlier appearance, in Detroit's Democratic
Free Press, from Jan. 1, 1846.


But it's possible to take it back at least a few months earlier, to Sep.
1845. That's when an item began appearing in various newspapers, titled:
"That Tarnal Railroad, as spoken at the Fulton Institute," credited to the
Cincinnati Commercial. The earliest appearances I've found are from these

* Dollar Newspaper (Philadelphia), Sep. 10, 1845, p. 1., col. 7

* Easton (Md.) Star, Sep. 23, 1845, p. 1, col. 1 [Genealogybank]

* The Locomotive (Indianapolis), Sep. 27, 1845, p. 1, col. 2

It's unclear whether the original was in Cincinnati's Daily Commercial or
Dollar Weekly Commercial -- neither has been digitized yet, AFAIK.



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

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