an antedating "how to"?

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 21 21:38:24 UTC 2014

On Tue, May 20, 2014 at 3:48 PM, Beth Young <zbyoung at> wrote:

> A good class discussion could clear up many misconceptions, but my classes
> are almost always scheduled online. So . . . if I keep this activity
> (haven't decided yet), I'll need to provide more basic information, such as
> what counts as evidence and how one might go about antedating a word.

I may have missed this suggestion earlier, Beth, but -- in case you
haven't already done this -- I think it would be helpful if you could
give your students (I assume we're talking college- or
university-level) a list of resources you know to be available to
them, especially those they can access through your institution's
library.  Giving them a place to start might help.

I'm afraid I don't know where you teach, but it's possible that your
university's library has subscriptions to a good assortment of
digitized historic newspaper databases or private papers and whatnot.
(Fred mentioned a few of these databases earlier.)  And sometimes an
institution's library may have its own digitized archive of historic
texts relevant, for example, to the history of the locale.  If your
local (city/county/state) library system has some good resources too,
I'd add those to the list.

Your students should be able to access these databases remotely; if
not, a trip to the library likely won't kill anyone.

By the way, Bill Mullins, an ADS-L member and very successful
antedater, has kindly compiled a list of free resources, available to

Finally, I'd suggest that students who choose to do this project also
check the ADS-L archives for ideas.

After all, it's not impossible to out-antedate the antedaters.

-- Bonnie

P.S.  By the way, your students may be interested in Ben Zimmer's
March, 2013 column describing Nathaniel Sharpe's fascinating and
unexpected unearthing of the history of "scalawag."

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list