Major Antedating of "Finalize": The Great Unacknowledged Australianism

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Tue Feb 5 17:19:17 UTC 2013

The word "finalize" became celebrated when its inclusion in Webster's Third New International Dictionary was a major point in the controversy over the descriptivism of that dictionary.  I think it is noteworthy in another way as well, as one of the major Australianism, an Australianism that is for some reason not included in the preeminent historical dictionary of Australian English, the Australian National Dictionary.

The OED's earliest citation for "finalize" is dated 1922.  The early citations in OED make it clear that this is an Australianism.  That is confirmed by a search in the Australian Literary and Historical Texts database, which shows extensive Australian usage of the word well before 1922.  Here is the earliest occurrence I have found in that database in some very quick searching:

1875 _South Australian Register_ 11 August 7  TO THE EDITOR.  Sir -- I claim to write on the subject of the terms on which the Clarendon Church was sold to the Board of Education, with a perfect knowledge of all the facts of the case. ... At a subsequent date (after the terms of sale had been finally settled), I brought the matter before the trustees, and they passed a resolution to that effect, which was sent to the District Council in the hope that the Council would provide a public Cemetery.  This has not been done yet.  When such provision is made the trustees will close their Cemetery to the general public; not, however, on the ground of any agreement to that effect with the Board of Education or District Council, for such an agreement is a fiction, but solely on the ground of their own resolution, voluntarily adopted after the conditions of sale had been finalized.  -- I am, Sir, &c., JOSEPH NICHOLSON, Late Chairman fo the Trustees.  Glenelg, August 9, 1875.

Fred Shapiro

YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

The American Dialect Society -

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