Another WOTY candidate: hanging chads

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 11 09:39:18 UTC 2000

>>fascinating.  here in california i've seen "chad" used only as a mass noun.
>>  so it would have to be "hanging bits/pieces of chad".
>>arnold (zwicky at
>The word is new to me, but I see the online AH and MW both treat it as
>I wonder if the etymology is an alteration of 'chaff', the stuff that
>falls/blows away when threshing wheat (AHD4's sense 1). The semantic space
>is right. Curiously, MW does not have this sense; the sense it does have is
>unfamiliar to me

The AHD4/online AHD just has it as "origin unknown", and I read its
definition ("scraps or bits of paper, such as...the tiny rectangles
punched out from data cards") as favoring a mass over a count
interpretation (or why wouldn't the definition be "a scrap or bit of
paper..."?).  So it seems like the AHD shares Arnold's mass sense.
The OED doesn't know from chad(s), except for a jolly but irrelevant
item.  (See below.)  Actually, I can imagine a cartoon of Mr. Chad
  "Wot, no president?"

--larry (who only knew of Mr. Chad as Mr. Jeremy's other half)
Mr. Chad. The figure of a human head appearing above a wall, etc.,
with the caption `Wot, no --?', as a protest against a shortage or
the like.

        1945 Sunday Express 2 Dec. 2/3 What is the origin of that
peculiarly laughable figure called Chad we see so often scribbled
across our walls?

        1946 Times 1 Apr. 5/4 Mr. Chad probably went through a number
of evolutions at the hands of a vast number of people before reaching
the present state and can claim no
        one man as creator. `Wot! No father,' it might well complain.

        1950 M. Kennedy Feast 220 She drew a picture of Mr. Chad on
the terrace wall saying: `Wot? No black amber?'

        1965 Oxford Mail 28 Sept. 6 The person..staring chad-like in
indolence across the desk-tops.

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