[Ads-l] Antedating of "Blurb"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Tue Oct 4 15:55:18 EDT 2016

The OED's first use for the word "blurb" is dated 1914, from a book by humorist Gelett Burgess.  In 2010 Garson O'Toole contributed a fascinating posting to this list in which he pushed the word back to 1907.

I believe that the actual coinage of "blurb" was on a dust jacket for Burgess' 1906 book _Are You a Bromide?_.  The Library of Congress website has an image of a jacket, using "blurb", that is often referred to as constituting the coinage in 1907, but the Library of Congress's own metadata for their image seems to point to a dating post-1913, perhaps even 1940.

I contacted Peter Harrington, a leading rare book dealer in England who currently has a 1906 copy of _Are You a Bromide?_.  They confirmed that their copy has the original dust jacket using "blurb" and that the dust jacket should be dated 1906.  Below is the antedating citation:

1906 Gelett Burgess _Are You a Bromide?_ (dust jacket)  YES, this is a "BLURB"!  All the Other Publishers commit them.  Why Shouldn't We? ... MISS BELINDA BLURB IN THE ACT OF BLURBING ... This book has 42-carat THRILLS in it.  It fairly BURBLES.  Ask the man at the counter what HE thinks of it!  He's seem Janice Meredith faded to a mauve magenta.  He's seen BLURBS before, and he's dead wise.

Fred Shapiro

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

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