Etymology of "broad" = [approx.] "gal"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Thu Jun 26 23:37:04 UTC 2008

Hmmm. Interesting.  So "broad' might be a shortening of "Broadway girl."  If so, there should be mention somewhere of "Broadway girl(s), or 'broad(s)' for short"  or perhaps "broad" specifically in reference to a Broadway girl.  Can either such comment be located?
Gerald Cohen


Original message from American Dialect Society on behalf of Douglas G. Wilson, Thu 6/26/2008 5:54 PM

I have another candidate etymon. I don't know whether anybody's
suggested it before.

It is found in periodicals of the early 20th century, but here is an
excerpt from a recent book which describes (some) the apparently
relevant milieu (New York, 1900-1920).

Can y'all spot the candidate?


Katie N. Johnson, _Sisters in Sin: Brothel Drama in America, 1900-1920_
(Cambridge, 2006): p. 22:

//Early twentieth-century American popular culture was smitten with the
figure of the actress. Countless novels, short stories, articles, and
plays about actresses at the turn of the century reveal a cultural
fascination with a purportedly champagne-drinking, lobster-eating, and
sexually naughty Broadway girl. .... / Many dramas on the New York stage
at the turn of the twentieth century featured a Broadway girl as the
main character, especially the ubiquitous "girl" musicals. Particularly
popular were _The Dancing Girl_ (1891), _A Gaiety Girl_ (1894), _The
Ballet Girl_ (1897), ..., _The Belle of Broadway_ (1902), ....
Championed by burlesque producer George Edwardes, these productions
featured the erotic spectacle of dancing, scantily-clad women known as
the "girl chorus." Representations of the Broadway girl were obsessed
with objectifying her sexuality.//


Candidate number 6, at least!

Note that I am not making any extravagant claim ... just another
candidate .... I like it, though, on brief acquaintance.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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