"hangover": 1904, _Foolish Dictionary_? Really?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Apr 27 16:01:08 UTC 2014

A relative was just asking me about the origin of "hangover", about which the guides at the Tower of London retail a dubious etymythology.  On the presumably real story as told by the OED (in a not yet updated entry), it's a U.S. invention, the relevant sense 2 presumably arising as a narrowing of the earlier, more transparent sense 1, attested 10 years earlier:

1. A thing or person remaining or left over; a remainder or survival, an after-effect. (Later quots. influenced by sense 2.)
1894   Outing 24 67/2   Then there are a few ‘hang-overs’ who have tried before, and two or three green candidates.

2. The unpleasant after-effects of (esp. alcoholic) dissipation.
1904   ‘G. Wurdz’ Foolish Dict.,   Brain,..usually occupied by the Intellect Bros.,—Thoughts and Ideas—as an Intelligence Office, but sometimes sub-let to Jag, Hang-Over & Co.

Sense 1 has mostly been pushed out by sense 2 in the usual Gresham's Law type way--it's safer to refer to "holdovers from the previous administration" than "hangovers from the previous administration"--but there is a nice cite from only 40 years ago:

1973   Daily Tel. 19 Feb. 6/4   The oversized dormitories...are hang-overs from the old lunatic asylums.

But the "Foolish Dictionary"?  Really?  There must be earlier cites lying around out there, especially since this is presumably a lexicon of what was already out there.  Still, that "G. Wurdz" (a.k.a. Gideon Words/Wurdz) and his Foolish Dictionary do sound like fun; the compilation is available via Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1989, where we can find the full, informative entry for "brain" and many other lexical items.


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