a side note on twink

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Sun Feb 14 21:31:16 UTC 2010

On Feb 13, 2010, at 7:19 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      a side note on twink
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Please forgive the longish post--at least, I deleted all the nested
> replies. (Actually, I just started a new thread.)
> I came across something that, I am sure, anyone who searched for Twink
> already has seen.
> http://bit.ly/cMVbUC
> Typographical Journal 22:2 (Feb 1903)
> The use of Twink here is entirely unrelated, but one has to wonder
> if it
> is not meant to be suggestive in the sense that "twink" was already in
> the vernacular at the time--just not in the meaning that came up here.
> The piece is a story of a daily named Twink. Well, not the entire
> story--it's just about one episode. Nonetheless, it is about the
> Twink,
> "probably the most conservative paper ever printed".
> [Side note: At the bottom of p. 125/1, you'll find, "Colonel Burns'
> 'phone tinkled." A bit further, there is a line, "Here's the d--d fool
> now." [single m-dash, not a double n-dash]]
> But this is a completely off the wall example. I can come up with
> better
> speculations than that! My point here is not so much to propose a
> specific line of derivation of the "twink" slang term, but to reject
> the
> idea that it is somehow derived from the Hostess Twinkie or even
> "twinkletoes" (although I have heard this used as a sarcastic
> euphemism
> *recently*, I doubt that the connection was made prior to
> 1963--http://bit.ly/c85Lhm). In fact, I believe, any of the derivative
> lines below are far better candidates than the artificial creampuff
> (besides, the common slur for homosexuals used to be--and still is, in
> some parts of the world--"poof", not "puff"). [There are a number of
> children's books 1893-1956 with Twinkletoes characters, not to
> mention a
> short poem by AA Milne--yes, that one] As the term is now at least
> partially derogatory, I am not afraid to trample over a couple
> cultural
> stereotypes in getting to the point. Plus, there is now a 2001 novel
> called Twink: Stories of a Young Gay Man.
> Going back to 1780 (http://bit.ly/9FWKJV) and 1795
> (http://bit.ly/cMVbUC) [and, of course, much further], "twink" is "the
> motion of the eye; a moment, a very short space of time" and to to
> twink
> is "to wink" (with some unidentified references to Shakespeare--I
> presume, from Tempest or from TOTS--and Chaucer--for "twinkin"). The
> same applies to "twinkle" and other variations and derivatives.
> Then, of
> course, there is the verb "twinge" (pinch, among other
> things)--although, the connection here may not be obvious--yet). In
> any
> case, this places twink and twinkle among the oldest words in English
> (if this even makes sense--the root is AS).
> In 1888, it still means the same thing, connected to both wink and
> twinkle, sparkle in the eye, etc.
> http://bit.ly/b4FgJo
> But now there is also a second meaning (yes, "twinge"!)
> twink (2) /v.t./, [Twinge.] To blame, to abuse, to find fault with.
> /"I have been called away ten times, and shall be twinked if I do not
> leave you." K??? Carter; Letters, i, ?90./
> In a 1903 dictionary that I failed to record, the former meaning is
> listed as obsolete or archaic. But other dictionaries of the period
> have
> no such problems.
> That's at least three different original meanings that could have been
> transformed into a euphemism (wink, twinkle, twinge). And "a moment in
> time" as well! (Suffolk Words and Phrases, 1826)
> http://bit.ly/9eubjo
>> Twink. An abbreviation, I suppose, of twinkling. It is used to denote
>> the smallest imaginable portion of time. "In a twink"--is more
>> emphatic than in a trice, in a jiffy, in a crack, and such phrases.
>> Nares explains it in its obvious sense of "the wink, or sudden motion
>> of an eye or eye-lid. /Twinkling/ is now substituted for it"--
>>        Then in a twink she won me over to her love, /T. of the Sh./
>> ii. 1.
>>                             ------him a pereless prince,
>>        Sonne to a king, and in the flower of youth,
>>        Even with a /twinke/ a senseless stocke I saw.
>>                                             /Ferrex and Porrex./ O.
>> Pl. i. 148.
>> We say /twink/ for twinkle. "The stars twink." As a verb we also have
>> /squink/ and /snap/, to denote the act of nictitation. See those
>> words.
> If there is any WH Auden connection in "starkle, starkle...", surely
> it
> would be to Gorboduc and Porrex!
> There are two other seemingly random hits. One is a verse on what a
> housekeeper supposedly managed to get from "twenty pecks of hops":
> http://bit.ly/9KIbq2
> The Sisters' Year (1868)
>> Twenty quarts of twinkledy-twink,
>> And twenty quarts of very good drink,
>> And twenty quarts of good lie-by,
>> And twenty quarts of drink when you're dry.
> The other one appears to be from The Sandman play (not entirely
> sure--only snippet is available from a 1952 collection--p. 299).
> http://bit.ly/c85Lhm
>> Starlets (Trip on to the stage, join hands to form ring and dance):
>>        Twinkledy, twinkledy, twink!
>>        We're just as gay as you think!
>>        We're starlets, you know, ...
> GB has only one edition which it dates as 1952 (http://bit.ly/c85Lhm).
> Harvard Libraries has another similarly titled volume from 1910, but
> it
> has a different editor. But, given that line in *contemporary*
> context,
> one cannot help but wonder. I can drop by Gutman next week and find
> the
> precise play in question. (If someone beets me to it, so much the
> better.) Another play from in a similar 1942 book (but titled "Twenty
> five royalty-free plays for children" instead of "fifty") has
> characters
> named Twink, Squink and Blink.
> Then, of course, there is the Twink! Twink! nursery rhyme that's all
> but
> disappeared since the 1950s. (I wonder why ;-)
> Yet, there was no "odd" connotation to Twink in 1942--at least, not in
> popular culture and published literature--when a story appeared in
> Harper's, with a female character named Twink (and at least one
> sentence
> with both Twink and queer in it). Then also as "little girl's
> name" (ten
> years old) in a William Saroyan story Mama I Love You (1956), as the
> cat
> "Mr. Twink" (Freda Mary Hurt) throughout the 1950's and early 60s, not
> to mention The Big Book of Twink (Robert Shure, 1958/9). In fact,
> there
> are dozens of books with characters (frequently, but not always,
> female)
> named Twink between 1862 and 1962--none with any homosexual
> connotations. During the same period, "twink" was a fairly common male
> nickname that also appears to have been unrelated to homosexuality. In
> the early 1930s (several hits, including this one: http://bit.ly/9IAq7j)
> there was a TWINK trademark.
>> TWINK . . Newest Star in Food Field Idea Is So Simple That Everyone
>> ... This
>> company is the Twink Products Corporation, and its product is called
>> Twink.
> Then, there is this from N&Q, 1886
> http://bit.ly/9x6QJA
> p.49
>> In this neighbourhood a chaffinch is called a /twink/. I believe that
>> the same word is used also in Somersetshire. What is the original of
>> the word? I it used elsewhere?
> This is followed by a response.
> p. 117
>> Twink (7th S. ii. 49).--A chaffinch is called a "twink" from the
>> sharp
>> cry of "twink, twink," which is it utters when alarmed. This bird
>> has,
>> indeed, "a large commodity of names," all expressive of its brisk and
>> lively habits, or of other characteristics. In adition to the above
>> it
>> has been variously called pink, the spink, the shilfa, the skelly or
>> shelly, the shell-apple, the chaffy, the boldie, the beechfinch, and
>> the "which-do-you." It is also called the bachelor finch, because the
>> males separate as the winter approaches, and go in distinct
>> flocks.       John Churchill Sikes.
>> 21, Endwell Road, Brockley, S.E.
>> ...
>> In Derbyshire the chaffinch is commonly called a "spink." This is
>> also
>> the name here, but not so generally used. Both "twink" and "spink"
>> may
>> probably be derived from the sharp metallic note of the
>> bird.                 Thos. Ratcliffe
>> Worksop
> I skipped two other responses from Chester and Derbyshire which both
> substantially repeat the line about the bird's call and a secondary
> name
> of "spink".
> Then another response.
> p. 213
>> Twink (7th S. ii. 49).--In my boyhood I never heard the chaffinch
>> called by any other name than /tink/. According to the glossaries at
>> my command, it is known by the names of /pink/ in Leicester and
>> Somerset shires, as well as about Corringham, Manley, and Rugby;
>> /pink-twink/ in Somersetshire; /spink/ in Cumberland, Derbyshire,
>> Hampshire, Leicestershire, and Yorkshire (see also Bailey's 'Dict.,'
>> ed. 1726); /tink/ in Cornwall and parts of Derbyshire; and /twink/ in
>> Somersetshire and the extreme south-east of Devonshire. /Pink/ and
>> /cuckoo/, with their variants, belong apparently to the same
>> category,
>> as ther are the words the birds so called are respectively supposed
>> to
>> utter. See "Chaffinch," 'Penny Cyclo.,' vi. 460.
>>    Wm. Pengelly.
>> Torquay
> So now there is also a finch named "twink", but also known as "spink",
> "pink" and "which do you". Don't know about anyone else, but it sounds
> suggestive to me. There is a 1952 reference to "twink" bird call as
> well
> (http://bit.ly/b0AguW). And, of course,
> http://bit.ly/adT77B
> The Pall Mall Magazine, 1895
>> The Chaffinch.
>> Twink, twink, twink ! sounds on each side of you as you walk along
>> some lane bordered with trees. There is the chaffinch, one of the
>> blithest and most handsome of the whole finch family, with his
>> reddish-brown back, yellow-green hinder parts, and white cheeks and
>> ear-covers. As to the nest--well, it has long been a country saying
>> "as neat as a chaffinch's" nest. ...
>> The merry call of twink, twink!--or, as some render it, spink, spink,
>> spink!--and the following song of toll, toll, pretty little dear ! is
>> one of the signs that spring will shortly fall into summer.
> If that's not enough, consider the 1865 Etymological Dictionary
> (vol. 3,
> p. 435).
> http://bit.ly/a4s5RZ
> Following the entry for "twink" that substantially reflects what I
> already covered, there is an entry for "twire" that I want to
> reproduce
> in full:
>> *To Twire.*  To peep, glance, twinkle.
>>        "I saw the went that /twired/ and twinkled at thee."--B. & F.
>> Formed on the same plan with /twinkle/, from the representation of a
>> twittering sound. It is used by Chaucer for the twittering of the
>> bird
>> which "seeketh on morning only the wood, and /twireth/--with her
>> swete
>> voise:" dulci voce /susurrat/.--Boeth. iii. met. 2.
>> Fr. /tirelire/ represents the singing of the lark; Du. /tireliren/,
>> It. /turlurullare/, to chirp and warble like birds.--Fl. E.
>> /tooraloora/ as the burden of a song represents the accompaniment of
>> music. Hence Du. /in zijn tureluur zijn/, to be in good humour. N.
>> /tur/, noise, sport, joyous life; /ture Jul/, to keep Christmas. Du.
>> /turen/, Bav. /zwiren/, to spy. MHG. /zwiren/, to wink, to glance,
>> was
>> proverbially used as synonymous with /zwinken/. Ich /zwiere/ swa man
>> /zwinket/ wider mich : I twire at him who twinks at me. /Zwinken/
>> soll
>> gên /zwieren/ gân : a twink shall go in return for a twire, tit for
>> tat.
> All this is mere speculation, but I'll leave that last quoted line as
> the punchline.
>     VS-)
> PS: On the other hand, the role-playing game use of twink--an
> unbalanced
> character with an exaggerated single characteristics (esp. attack
> skill--see UD for details)--does appear to be more closely related to
> twinkies. For one, at least in some circles, RPG players have long
> been
> known as "twinkies", largely for their consumption of large quantities
> of the worthless snack (at least, that was the use that I coined in
> 1984-5 at MIT--and, apparently, it has been around since, as I've met
> current MIT RPG players who still hear/use the term and resent it; no
> idea if it has merged with other meanings of twink or twinkie). I
> suppose, this is not as long as the gay use of "twink", but
> homosexuality has a far longer and more diverse history than RPGs.
> PPS: Yet one more--also consider the possibility that "twink" might
> have
> come from "twin". The idea, perhaps, is to see the "twinks" as
> grooupies
> that follow their partners in some sense. The reason I am saying
> that is
> because we have a *stated* example of someone coining the term
> "twinker"
> complete with the verb "twink"! Allow me to channel Rudy Rucker.
> http://bit.ly/dgmrfq
>> I sometimes study authors' writing or artists' works so intensely
>> that
>> I begin to imagine that I can think like them. I even have a spacial
>> word I made up for this kind of emulation; I call it /twinking/. To
>> twink someone is to simulate them internally. Putting it in an older
>> style of language, to twink someone is to let their spirit briefly
>> inhabit you. A twinker is, if you will, like a spiritualistic medium
>> channeling a personality.
>> Over the years I've twinked my favorite writers, scientists,
>> musicians, and artists, including Robert Sheckley, Jack Kerouac,
>> William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Frank Zappa, Kurt Godel, Georg
>> Cantor, Jorge Luis Borges, Edgar Allan Poe, Joey Ramone, Phil Dick,
>> and Peter Bruegel. The immortality of the great ones results from
>> faithful twinking by their aficionados.
> Interestingly, Rucker's "twinking" resembles the process that Tom Kuhn
> demanded from his students and other historians of science before
> analyzing historical documents. One cannot meaningfully analyze
> Aristotle's science without immersing himself fully in the
> intellectual
> environment as it existed in Aristotle's time--not as it is today. In
> Rucker's terms, in order to be a successful historian of science, Kuhn
> demanded twinking.
> If Rucker could coin such a term for one purpose, what would have
> stopped someone from coining a similar term for another?
Nina Wilcox Putnam wrote a children's book, /Winkle, Twinkle &
Lollypop/ in 1918.  The text & setting are strongly British in flavor,
but Putnam was an American.  The title refers to triplet children
having those names. Winkle & Twinkle were boys & Lollipop a girl.  No
explanation is given for the names, which I found rather off-putting
when given the book at about age 7.  The book, though rather smarmy,
isn't bad, despite the names.

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list