[Ads-l] Olympics-related WOTY?

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 19 17:16:50 UTC 2016

My Wall St. Journal column this week is on, you guessed it, "GOAT":

Under the WSJ's new paywall system, you can get to the full article if
you're a subscriber or if you come in via social media or Google. So you
should be able to get through this way (or by Googling the headline):


I found this use from 1996, four years before the LL Cool J album
popularized the acronym:

1996 Feb. 4 Rasan Rasch alt.sports.basketball.nba.orlando-magic (Usenet
Penny is the GOAT. Greatest of All Time

As I describe in the column, I tracked down Rasan Rasch, who credited his
childhood friend Billy Vanel. Vanel was using it to refer to Magic Johnson
as early as 1991. (Or so they say -- there's no written documentation.)

On Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 11:02 AM, Yagoda, Ben <byagoda at udel.edu> wrote:

> The acronym GOAT, meaning greatest of all time, was, for a long time,
> applied exclusively to Mohammed Ali. According to the Grammarphobia blog<
> http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2016/07/goat.html>  Ali’s wife, Lonnie,
> incorporated Greatest of All Time, Inc. (G.O.A.T. Inc.) in 1992. In 2000,
> the rapper LL Cool J released an album called “G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All
> Time)," and in recent years the appellation has frequently  been used in
> reference to Michael Jordan.
> But it has exploded during the current Olympics. A Google News search<
> https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&
> authuser=0&q=%22greatest+of+all+time%22&oq=%22greatest+of+
> all+time%22&gs_l=news-cc.3..43j43i53.2925.6876.0.8515.23.
> 22greatest+of+all+time%22+goat&hl=en&gl=us&authuser=0&
> tbs=qdr:m,sbd:1&tbm=nws&start=40> shows that the GOAT tag has been
> applied to the celebrated Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, and
> Usain Bolt, but also to the more obscure Kohei Uchimura (men’s gymnastics),
> Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba (women’s 10,000 meters), Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi
> (men’s steeplechase), and American cyclist Kristen Armstrong.

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