Word for the Wise on "doughboy"

Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Thu Jun 24 12:15:11 UTC 1999

I'm forwarding a copy of this exchange to the editors who write "Word
for the Wise." Let me make it clear that I don't vet all the material
of this sort that Merriam-Webster now turns out.  If I did, I would have
little time to do anything else.  This boner would have caught my
attention.  I remember Jon Lighter telling me about his antedating of
<doughboy> about ten years ago, when I worked at Random House.

Jim Rader

> >
> > I was perusing the Word for the Wise text on the Merriam-Webster site
> > (http://www.m-w.com) when I came across the following:
> >
> >     Another coinage from that year [1865] is more closely
> >     connected with World War I than the Civil War. It was
> >     doughboy, the term for an American infantryman.
> >     Supposedly, that word originated with globular buttons
> >     on soldiers' uniforms that resembled a type of small
> >     round donut known as a doughboy.
> >
> > The text appears at:
> >
> > http://www.m-w.com/wftw/99feb/020199.htm
> Except, of course, that _doughboy_ is attested as far back
> as 1847, as cited in the _Random House Historical Dictionary
> of American Slang._
> The origin of the term, despite many suggestions, including
> the one above, remains obscure.
> Jesse Sheidlower
> Random House Reference
> <jester at panix.com>

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