FW: Dude supplemental -- [message from Peter Reitan]

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Thu Nov 7 18:04:23 UTC 2013

For those interested in the origin of "dude," I forward the following message by Peter Reitan, and  I would welcome his joining the ads-l discussions.  He sent me an attachment with the Sept. 22, 1883 cartoon of a dude, but I don't think ads-l permits the sending of attachments.  If anyone is interested in seeing it, you may contact me, and I'll send it to you individually.  I'll also include it in the next issue of Comments on Etymology that treats "dude" (probably this January).

Btw, Mr. Reitan gives me credit for discovering the origin of "dude," but I don't deserve it. Credit really goes to Barry Popik, with an assist from Sam Clements.

Gerald Cohen
From: Peter Reitan [pjreitan at hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 3:39 PM
To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
Subject: Dude supplemental

I read chronicle.com blog post report about your recent article about the origin of the word Dude.  I have a couple sources that might interest you.

I found the attached newspaper advertisement in the New York Sun of September 22, 1883.  It uses the word "dood" in conjunction with the complete phrase yankee doodle, appearing as "Yankee Dood' le Do".

I also looked up the word doodle in the 1884 edition of Webster's Condensed Dictionary.

Both of these uses support your theory of origin.  Some of your early sources appear to refer to doods or dudes as sort of do-nothings, comports with the then-understood meaning of doodle, a trifler or simpleton, thought to be derived from a contraction of "do little".  The use of Yankee Doodle do calls to mind the sound or a rooster, and is suggestive of the preening or strutting of a dude.

I also find it amusing that the clothing company was advertising with the word dude in a positive sense, in an attempt to appeal to actual dudes, as opposed to the negative sense in which dudes would be ridiculed for their poffery.

Last year, I found an 1885 article, also from the Sun, perhaps more of a humor piece, that suggested that the word was of swahili origin.

I was able to find a copy of the cited Swahili dictionary on archive.org, and the word is actually listed.  It seems far-fetched that it would have been the origin of the word that appeared in New York in 1883.

Pete Reitan

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

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