imaginative etymologies: BUCK NAKED

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Apr 7 01:45:14 UTC 2004

>Buckskins??  Who were the "old timers" and why were there more around then, I
>wonder? I'm sure my dad would have remembered all the naked Indians running
>around.  I think I'll have to save that comment as a good example of folk
>etymology--which I never can explain adequately to students.

It's hard for me to tell which things are jokes, and which are intentional
jokes and which are unintentional jokes .... Sometimes I put a smiley-face
(^_^) by my joke, sometimes I don't but maybe should.

I think somebody asked whence "buck naked" and presented what appears to be
a so-called WAG [="wild-ass guess"] etymology from an otherwise respectable

The short answer to "whence?" is AFAIK "nobody knows" ... or at least "I
don't know." However I think a reasonable although unsupported hypothesis
is better than nothing as long as it's properly labeled "WAG" or
"speculative" or equivalent.

I'm not sure that a reasoned and (even slightly) researched hypothesis
qualifies as "folk etymology" and I'm not sure deliberate jokes by
linguists or others qualify either. Is the above-mentioned published
speculation by a professional lexicographer "folk etymology"? I suppose
there must be an article in AS or somewhere defining "folk etymology".

-- Doug Wilson

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