"beatnik"--coined by Herb Caen?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Jun 26 06:00:26 UTC 2004

>That claim, made tonight on Jeopardy, is supported by various web
>sites (the idea being that the San Francisco Chronicle columnist came
>up with the term in a 1958 column, of course as a blend of "beat
>(generation)" and "sputnik"), but does not appear in the OED entry
>for the word.  The RHHDAS does endorse the Herb Caen coinage, though.
>Are any antedates available, or is this an rare actual instance of a
>verifiable and attested coinage?

I can't refute the claim.

I suppose the basis for the coinage is "beat" + "-nik", with the
Russian/Yiddish suffix "-nik" possibly applied by analogy with the already
available "nudnik", which was itself popularized ca. 1957 by its
association with "sputnik" IIRC. Just my naive notion.

-- Doug Wilson

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