Smart Aleck (1730?)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Dec 2 04:12:51 UTC 2002

>     The question here is: Did the editors of the Grub-Street Journal
>refer ca. 1730 to their publication as a "literary paper run by a
>number of smart alecks"?
>Or was this description added much later (19th or 20th century) by
>someone injecting his own opinion about the editors and their work?
>     If "smart aleck" really did appear in a London publication of ca. 1730,
>this would be truly remarkable. As you know, the earliest attestation
>thus far spotted is 1865 (in U.S.).

The quotation including "smart alecks" is on p. 50, in footnote 28. The
footnote is by an editor, apparently, ca. 1960's. The short quote is not
explicitly attributed, but the author of the footnote refers (elsewhere in
the same note) to a source dated 1932, a book about old English newspapers
I think, which is likely the origin. Anyway, I see no suggestion that the
expression was used in the 18th century.

-- Doug Wilson

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