Another WOTY candidate: hanging chads

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Sun Nov 12 00:29:04 UTC 2000

At 05:39 PM 11/11/00 +0800, you wrote:
>>>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.

Reminds me of a recent issue of _The Nation_ , where the "What, me worry?"
of Mad Magazine was parodied.  Alfred E. Neumann was made to look vaguely
(well, not so vaguely) like G.W., with a sign on him saying "Worry."

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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