Morning wood (UNCLASSIFIED)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Nov 17 14:52:35 UTC 2012

On Sat, Nov 17, 2012 at 9:11 AM, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at> wrote:
> On 11/17/2012 8:22 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> ....
>> A "woodie" is slightly earlier. And "stiffie" is a little earlier than
>> that. In print, anyway.
> --
> I recall this "stiffy" from the 1960's. It seems such a natural way to
> say "something stiff" that I suppose it may have been coined multiply
> over the decades/centuries. I see it in "Tales of the French Riviera" (I
> think published about 1968 although the G-books printing may be much later).
> This "woody" was novel to me around 1990 or 1992 IIRC. I suppose it
> didn't have wide US currency in the time of the Beach Boys ... let alone
> in Woody Woodpecker's early days ....
> When are the early dictionary citations? (Pardon me if I've missed part
> of the discussion.)

Green's Dictionary of Slang has "woodie"/"woody" from 1944, in a
Gershon Legman limerick:

There was a young fellow named Goody
Who claimed that he wouldn't, but would he?
If he found himself nude
With a gal in the mood,
The question's not woody, but could he?

There are cites for "sprout a woodie" from 1985 and "sport a woodie"
from 1989. (ISTR "pop a woodie" from the same time period.) Green's
"wood" cites start in 1997, but that's a bit late. "Morning wood"
starts showing up on Usenet in July 1993, thanks to "Beavis and

And here's "sporting wood" from 1994:


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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