Wuss; Clothes horse

Greg Austin PorchGreg at AOL.COM
Tue Feb 1 21:23:28 UTC 2000

In a message dated 2/1/00 11:25:34 AM Eastern Standard Time,
gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG writes:

<< Yeah, maybe, but can you prove it? Words in print are the best proof we
have of when a term was invented, popularized or reached common usage. This
isn't journalism; three people agreeing doesn't mean something is approved as
fact. Unfortunately, due to the unreliability of human memory and humans as
witnesses (I think, myself, the only good witness is the perpetual Fifth
Amendment silence of a cat) merely saying something is or was so is
insufficient, though it makes a great way to figure out where to begin
looking. >>

As a professional historian, I find this approach flawed.  True, memories are
not exact, but they are not totally unreliable either.  To date a word's time
origin accurately primary source material would have to be searched: diaries
and letters of '60's teens would be a good place to start.  When a large
number of people remember something, it is reasonably safe to assume that
collective memory has some basis in fact.  Popular vocabulary in the sixties
was very dynamic.  Wuss was a grade school term and missed by the media until
those grade school kids carried the term into young adulthood.  I believe the
only thing you have shown is the inadequacy of your reference material.


Greg Austin

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