"Nor'easter" -- missing definition? and an antedating

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jan 19 18:17:03 UTC 2010

Thanks for the "support", Mark.  My just plain
Webster's (New Collegiate) also has "northeaster"
as "storm or wind" (but it does not have
"nor'easter").  And see interspersed below.

At 1/19/2010 11:53 AM, Mark Mandel wrote:

>Merriam-Webster, and etymological discussion (with refs) from Wikipedia.
>University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman has pointed
>out that while the OED cites examples dating back to 1837, they represent
>the contributions of a handful of non-New England poets and writers.

The example of "nor'easter" I found from Samuel
Griswold Goodrich is 1836, and the *very*
prolific Goodrich (553 items in Harvard's
catalog) certainly was a New England writer.

>Liberman posits that "nor’Easter" may have originally been a literary
>affectation, akin to "e'en" for "even" and "th'only" for "the only," which
>is an indication in spelling that two syllables count for only one position
>in metered verse, with no implications for actual pronunciation.[9]
>However, despite these assertions the term can be found in the writings of
>New Englanders going back at least to the 19th century. Thomas Bailey
>Aldrich writing in his semi-autobiographical work The Story of the Bad
>Boy(1870) "We had had several slight flurries of hail and snow before, but
>this was a regular nor'easter."[1]. In "The Gray Goth"(1869) Elizabeth
>Stuart Phelps Ward wrote "...and there was snow in the sky now, setting in
>for a regular nor'easter."[2] Usage existed into the 20th century in the
>form of current event description("In spite of a heavy "nor'easter," the
>worst that has visited the New England coast in years, the hall was crowded"
>- 1908 [3]), historical reference ("In December of 1778, the Federal brig
>General Arnold, Magee master and twelve Barnstable men among the crew, drove
>ashore on the Plymouth flats during a furious nor'easter, the "Magee storm"
>that mariners, for years after, used as a date to reckon from."(1917)[4])
>and ("common contraction for northeaster" (1959)[5] & "During this battle,
>the dreaded, disagreeable and destructive Northeaster rages over the New
>England, the Middle States, and southward. No Nor'easter ever occurs except
>when there is a high barometer headed off and driven down upon Nova Scotia
>and Lower Canada" (1878)[6]).

Goodrich's 1836 antedates these also.  I've just
added to the Wikipedia discussion page.


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