Derivation of the word oaktag

AAllan at AOL.COM AAllan at AOL.COM
Thu Dec 19 23:39:06 UTC 2002

In American Speech 59.1 for Spring 1984, Laurence Urdang has a paragraph
speculating on the etymology of "oaktag" : ". . . "oaktag" is a dark beige,
which may account for the "oak-" part of its name. In the 1930s and later,
shipping tags were often made of this material, typically with a hole at one
end, reinforced with a stiff red circular grommet and a short piece of cord
for tying to a package. It seems likely to me that the universal application
of the stock to such use accounts for the "-tag" part of "oaktag." This is,
of course, a folk eytmology -- but then, "oaktag" appears to be a folk name,
doesn't it?"

He notes that in a previous issue (57.3 for fall 1982, p 189), David Gold had
suggested that "oaktag" is a New York City (and Newark, New Jersey) word. But
FWIW, it's not in the Dictionary of American Regional English.

It is notable, also, that "oaktag" is not in the Oxford English Dictionary or
American Heritage or Merriam-Webster's Collegiate.

- Allan Metcalf

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