Linguistic dark matter - search for pre-1843 "shyster"

Gerald Cohen gcohen at MST.EDU
Sun Dec 19 19:13:33 UTC 2010

Thanks, Fred. I just checked Google books for pre-1843 "shyster", and
Google's new searchable database clearly turns out to have inaccuracies when
it indicates that "shyster" had limited use around 1800 and 1820.
(My research indicates the term actually arose in 1843).

Two examples:
1) Google books has a "shyster" quote from 1801 (Joseph Bushnell Grinnell,
_Men and Events of Forty Years_, p. 409). But Grinnell wasn't even born
in 1801 (his dates are 1821 - 1891), and his book was published in the
year of his death.

2) Google has another 1801 "shyster" attestation: T. Dewitt Talmadge,
_Night Scenes of City Life_, p. 121.  But Talmadge's dates are (1832 -
1902), and WorldCat says the book was published in 1891.

I found another supposed pre-1843 attestation of "shyster", but when I
checked the page, the spelling was "Thyster" and had nothing to do with

Oy vey!

Gerald Cohen

The American Dialect Society -

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