"Shifters" and their "argot", 1922; some antedatings of OED

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Dec 3 00:42:17 UTC 2012

An op-ed column in today's NYTimes by Ben Schott, "A Ponzi Schems for
Flappers".  Describes the "Shifters", members of an informal,
unorganized organization that was a mixture of a financial scam and a
(mainly?) sororal social group, which existed for a few months in 1922:


Amusing in itself, but also noteworthy for an "Argot of the
Shifters", a short dictionary of their slang, credited to the Toledo
News Bee of 1922 March 29.  My brief analysis reveals several
possible antedatings of the OED:

Ankling along:  OED ankle v. sense 2.a is 1926--

Tomato = pretty girl:  OED sense 1.c is 1929--

mad money:  same year and month as OED, but 16 days later.

However, the OED's quotation for "mad money" is
1922   Lima (Ohio) News 2 Mar. 1/3   The 1922 girl always 'squirrels'
or hides, a few dollar bills known as 'mad' money.
This instance of "squirrel" verb antedates OED sense 2., 1939--

squirrel = "hides or banks his or her money" (thus a noun, I
think):  not in OED.

crasher = "[person] who goes uninvited": OED sense 2. is 1924--.


There is a total of 40 terms in the Toledo News Bee's list.  I did
not research beyond those listed above.


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

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