No subject

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sun Dec 26 11:52:26 UTC 2004

On Sat, 25 Dec 2004 22:55:26 -0500, Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>

>whodunit (OED 1930)
>1929 _Chicago Daily Tribune_ 27 Dec. 15 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)
>Spooky seances figure prominently in answering the question, "Whodunit?"

1928 _Chicago Daily Tribune_ 11 June 31/7 Mr. Walpole's long tale of a
painstaking sadist is here made over into a stage-piece that is kin to the
long, long list of button-button, Cock-Robin, and who-done-it shows in the
items of construction and style, although the contents of the novel really
have little in common with such things, called in the jargon of the
business "mystery-plays."

1929 _Chicago Daily Tribune_ 5 Oct. 15/4 You'll agree with me, I'm sure,
in thinking it one of the best "whodunit" films ever produced.

Earlier examples of "who dun it" used as eye-dialect (perhaps worthy of
inclusion in the OED as subsidiary "square bracket" cites?):

1895 _Hornellsville (New York) Weekly Tribune_ 15 Nov. 2/2 A boy could hev
led me by the nose till I found this tar on my ear. Who dun it? Let the
critter stand forth and meet his doom!

1900 _New York Times_ 11 Dec. 3/3 It wusn't me, though, and de trut' is,
Judge, dis old guy had his pots on an' he don't know who dun it, see?

--Ben Zimmer

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