Query About Etymological Discoveries

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Sep 22 01:47:23 UTC 2009

At 8:30 PM -0400 9/21/09, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>>I am writing an article about etymological discoveries of recent
>>decades, exploring the question of whether anyone pays any
>>attention to discoveries that shed factual light on the derivation
>>of a term or whether the media and the public continue believing in
>>erroneous derivations despite the discovery.  Some examples of
>>"etymological discoveries" of recent decades would be _O.K._
>>deriving from _oll korrect_, _hooker_ not deriving from the name of
>>a Civil War general, _bug_ 'computer defect' not deriving from the
>>discovery of a moth inside an early computer, _in like Flynn_ not
>>deriving from Erroll Flynn's trial, _flack_ not deriving from
>>_flak_.  Can anyone suggest other examples?
>>Note that I am not asking for discoveries that push back the
>>earliest date of usage of a term (the "when") without affecting
>>"why" a term is used.
>It's a lot easier to disprove a purported etymology than to prove one!
>E.g., "hooker" isn't from Gen. Hooker's name but AFAIK it's still an
>open question where it DID come from.

The null hypothesis deriving "hooker" as an agentive from the verb
"to hook" has always seemed pretty reasonable to me.  Is there some
reason to disbelieve it?


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