"Uncle Sam" in 1810

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 4 14:26:05 UTC 2013

On Jul 4, 2013, at 1:32 AM, Ben Zimmer wrote:

> Barry Popik, who previously had discovered an example of "Uncle Sam"
> from Dec. 1812, alerted some of us to a new antedating, appearing in a
> journal entry dated Mar. 24, 1810, written by Isaac Mayo, then a Navy
> midshipman. The relevant passage is transcribed, with a partial page
> image, on Log Lines, the blog of the USS Constitution Museum:
> http://www.usscm.blogspot.com/2013/06/seeking-uncle-sam.html
> Here is a description of the journal, which is evidently not available online:
> http://www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org/proddir/prod/496/42
> And here is my writeup on the antedating for my Word Routes column:
> http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/new-light-on-uncle-sam/
> --bgz

I love the counterarguments to Barry's find:
(1) Hundreds come to see Samuel Wilson's gravesite, so he must have been the originator of "Uncle Sam"
(2) Earlier antedates of "Uncle Sam" don't take into account the cultural context of the area.
(3) Earlier antedates don't change the history of Troy celebrating itself as the home of "Uncle Sam"
and the clincher:
(4) Congress passed a law recognizing Samuel Wilson as the originator, so it must be true.

And we wonder why so many reject evolution and climate change…

--LH, whose mother was born and raised in Troy, NY (but then Barry went to RPI!)

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

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