Antedating of _Rag_ 'A Type of Musical Composition"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Mar 29 19:11:29 UTC 2007

On 3/29/07, Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at> wrote:
> rag (OED, n.5 2., 1897)
> 1894 _Leavenworth Herald_ 8 Dec. in Lynn Abbott & Doug Seroff _Out of
> Sight_ (2002) 448  Kansas City girls can't play anything on pianos except
> "rags," and the wordst king of "rags" at that.

Interesting. I'm not entirely convinced that this is exactly OED n5
sense 2, since we don't know whether the writer would call an
individual composition a "rag" (let alone whether these tunes have
"ragtime" syncopation). But even if "rags" is being used here as a
collective plural (roughly equivalent to "junk"), it could still point
to a transitional usage on the way to the ragtime sense of "rag".

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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