"basket weaving" revisited

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu May 24 04:34:00 UTC 2007

On 5/23/07, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at umr.edu> wrote:
>    In 2003 several ads-l members produced a thread on "basket weaving" and
> "underwater basketweaving" (= a ridiculously easy college course).  I'm presently
> compiling that information for a working paper in Comments on Etymology, and
> due credit will of course be given.
>     Barry Popik has a 1950 quote for "Hopi basket weaving", 1952 for just "basket
> weaving" and 1969 for "underwater basketweaving."  Might any of the recently
> available databases (or any other source) contain earlier attestations?  Any
> assistance would be very much appreciated.

On 5/23/07, Sam Clements <SClements at neo.rr.com> wrote:
> Here's the ADS link
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0508C&L=ADS-L&P=R3134&I=-3
> where I say I found an example in 1956 in the LA Times letters.

Antedating Sam's 1956 cite for "underwater basket weaving" is this
apparently legitimate result from Google Book Search:

1954 Robin W. Winks _These New Zealanders_ 116 It is also quite true
that some American universities offer courses in 'Underwater Basket
Weaving,' 'How to Putter About Efficiently', and 'Fly-casting'.

(Winks was a US Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand and got his M.A. in
Maori studies from Victoria University. He went on to teach history at
Yale from 1957 until his death in 2003.)

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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