Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 21 07:41:33 UTC 2001

>Help me out, guys (and gals for those who still see 'guys' as gendered).  I'm
>very lost on this 'toboggan' business.  Are there two 'toboggan' meanings?
>If so, are they:
>a.) a sock-cap type of hat to keep you warm while you use...
>b.) a sled.
>This is what I thought they were.  I was laughed at by everyone.  Apparently,
>no body but my family knows the (a) version.  Can anyone validate my poor
>internal lexicon?  Or am I still crazy?
Curiously, the AHD3/4 doesn't list this meaning (with which I'm
passively familiar) but the OED does, with the first cite from ours

1929 Amer. Speech V. 152 Toboggan, a woolen cap. `Take off your toboggan.'

Of course, the context helps narrow down which reference is intended.
In the above example, the "sledge with low runners" toboggan (from a
Micmac word via Canadian French "tabaganne") would be possible but
unlikely.  Even more unlikely in the other two OED cites:

1948 Pacific Spectator Winter 83 He had on faded overalls with new
blue patches on the knees, and a sweater under the overalls, and a
knitted blue toboggan on his head, against the cold.

1975 Raleigh (N. Carolina) News & Observer 6 Jan. 24/4 He [sc. a
burglar] was wearing a red toboggan and tight pants, police said.

Not an easy thing to knit those sledges.  The earlier form of these
was evidently "toboggan cap", the idea presumably being that that's
what you wear when you scoot downhill on one.  Then there are
spin-offs like "on the toboggan" for 'on the decline', which is more
easily assimilable to the sled--

1950 J. Dempsey Championship Fighting 197 A veteran of thirty or
thirty-one who is on the `toboggan'.

--or other metaphorical extensions as in this unpleasant little post-war item:

1947 Christian Cent. 20 Aug. 999/1 The United States is sliding down
the toboggan with 75 per cent of the south a negroid population.


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