[Ads-l] _splib_

Tue Feb 21 21:27:07 EST 2017

Multiple newspapers reported in 1935 that Bill Robinson (as they called him) claimed to have invented the term when he was a child.  That would work out to an invention in the 1880s, which would probably be about right for a term that was originated by an African-American child (if the claim is true) and first saw print in 1919 (at least, that's the earliest in the OED) - it takes time for that kind of dispersion.

Although many of the early uses are from or relate to Black English, there are also early uses, including the earliest, with no apparent connection to Black English.  I think we should also consider the possibility that the term originated in the South generally, rather than specifically in Black English.  

I do think it unlikely that the term originated with Irving Bacheller, who used it in 1919 in his best-selling book A Man for the Ages.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Wilson Gray
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:07 PM
Subject: Re: _splib_

On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 7:44 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> Wilson?

You got me. I read somewhere - Mario Pei? EBONY? - a while ago, that Bill
"Bojangles" Robinson made it up. He was still alive and kicking, in my lost
youth, but, AFAIK, nobody ever asked him and he never claimed it.

Speaking of "Bojangles," it was Edward "Bojigger" McGrew, younger brother
of Edgar "Hambone" McGrew who told me my first shaggy-dog story. I don’t
know whether ther’s any etymological connection between "Boj[angles]" and
"Boj[igger]" or why Edgar’s nickname was "Hambone."

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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

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