gizmo, 1944 origin speculations

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Dec 15 18:35:23 UTC 2006

1944 gizmo [pronunciation marked: first syllable accent, long o] A word
gadget, used in the Navy air force; perhaps derived from the Arabic gism [...]
meaning body, stature, strength.

p. 147 in World Words: Recommended Pronunciations, W. Cabell Greet (NY:
UP, published for CBS)

Though I doubt the suggested Arabic derivaton, perhaps the Navy air force use
claim deserves some attention, even though other early lately-mentioned
references associate it with the Marines.

One earlier speculation I hadn't bothered mentioning till now was someone
goofing (in either sense) on the word gyro.

I now see in the archives that Barry gave a 1942 Army Times cite for
"Gyro bugs
-- Instrument mechanics."

By the way, gyroscope can be antedaded, which I checked yesterday but didn't
bother mentioning. So many OED entries can now be antedated that I wondered
when it is worth noting them. This is one reason I wrote asking what word or
phrase origins people particularly care about. After all, antedatings are not
all of equal interest. OED has 1856 for gyroscope.

1854 [g-bks] The Poetry of Science: Or, Studies of the Physical Phenomena of
Nature By Robert Hunt p.13-14:
[....] and thus, by this instrument,--called the [p14] gyroscope--we can
determine, as with the pendulum, the motion of the earth around its
axis [....]

1854 [g-bks] Excelsior :
helps to progress, in religion, science, and literature /
James Hamilton vol. 2. London : J. Nisbet,  p. 396:

On Tuesday another sioree, or rather a series of exhibitions, took
place in St.
George's Hall. M. Foucault showed his gyroscope, a little instrument which is
caused to rotate with extreme velocity, and thus acquires a fixed position of
its own, unaffected by all surrounding objects, even by the earth [....]

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list