[Ads-l] Antedating of "Phoney"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 5 19:23:32 EDT 2019


While searching yesterday, I also came across some instances of
"phoney" that were linked to telephones. Some investors lost money
with early telephone businesses, so initially I thought that these
instances might have the desired sense. But after collecting more
examples, I hypothesized that "phoney" was a pun for "funny". So I
agree with Peter's suggested that wordplay may have increased the
circulation of the "phoney" and "phony" although these instances had a
different semantics. Here are three examples:

Date: September 24, 1878
Newspaper: The Boston Globe
Newspaper Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Article: Personal
Quote Page 2, Column 4
Database: Newspapers.com
[Begin excerpt]
Edison is the phoney man of the Menlo Park (N. J.) Daily Inventor office.
[End excerpt]

Date: September 14, 1887
Newspaper: Evening Gazette (The Gazette)
Newspaper Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Article: (Filler item)
Quote Page 2, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com
[Begin excerpt]
In the Chicago jail is a man who thinks he is a telephone. That's phoney.
[End excerpt]

Date: September 13, 1888
Newspaper: Detroit Free Press
Newspaper Location: Detroit, Michigan
Article: Currency
Quote Page 3, Column 1
Database: Newspapers.com
[Begin excerpt]
There are sixteen different instruments bearing names which end in
"phone," and it is about time that inventors gave up the phoney
business for something else.
[End excerpt]

Garson

On Mon, Aug 5, 2019 at 2:08 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> As to how or why the accepted spelling (and presumably pronunciation)
> changed from the longstanding "fawney" to "phoney," perhaps it had to do
> with the naming of the new technologies, telephone and phonograph.
>
> Beginning in the late-1870s, there were a number of jokes, humor bits or
> stories that used the "phon" in telephone or phonograph as a pun of
> sorts on the word, "funny."
>
>
> The Daily Appeal (Carson City, Nevada), March 20, 1877, page 2.
> "Now and then we strike a good thing done by the journeymen funny-men of
> the papers . . . . 'if you please, where is the telephone?' They
> telephoney story about this."
>
> The Brooklyn Union, April 2, 1877, page 2.
> "When telephonic communication is established with Hartford we shall
> expect mark Twain to telephone-y story to Brooklyn audiences
> occasionally."
>
> St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 1, 1878, page 2.
> "The 'tel-a-phoney story" point has already been used by various Eastern
> paragraphists who have never felt the quickenings of conscience."
>
> The Poultney Journal (Poultney, Vermont), May 10, 1878, page 1.  The
> title above a collection of humorous items was labeled "Phoney-graphs."
>
> Democrat and Weekly Sentinel (Burlington, Vermont), June 29, 1878, page
> 1.  The title above an article about Thomas Edison's workshop, "Edison's
> Megaphone and other Phoney Things, Including 236 Patents."
>
> I did not look through all such jokes in all years, but by 1889 (when
> Phoney was already in use), a joke used "Phoneyman" to mean a
> "professional Humorist."  Might this have played on the sense of a
> funnyman telling untrue stories?  Might something like that have helped
> blur or extend the perceived meaning of "phoney" in "phoney rings," as
> to other false things? Or vice versa?
>
> The Clyde Argus (Clyde, Kansas), October 25, 1889, page 2.
> "Phoneyman (professional Humorist): 'Most men imagine they are witty.'
> Jones: 'Yes, even the humorists do that?'"
>
>
> ------ Original Message ------
> From: "ADSGarson O'Toole" <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
> To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
> Sent: 8/5/2019 1:06:03 AM
> Subject: Re: Antedating of "Phoney"
> >
> >Excellent find, Peter. Here is another example of phony jewelry in a
> >slightly earlier citation in 1888. The article eventually indicates
> >that the phony jewelry corresponds to rings.
> >
> >Date: August 25, 1888
> >Newspaper: The Cincinnati Enquirer
> >Newspaper Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
> >Article: Played His Last Card: Sudden Death at a Faro-Table
> >Quote Page 1, Column 4
> >Database: Newspapers.com
> >
> >[Begin excerpt - double-check for errors]
> >When arrested he was drunk and had $320 in his clothes, although the
> >suit he wore was not worth seventy-five cents. He was known to the
> >police as a circus and fair worker, and was an all-round "sure-thing"
> >man, a shell-worker, dealer in "phony" jewelry, &c. His visit to this
> >city was to work the last-named racket, about two hundred snide rings
> >of all kinds being found in his kit.
> >[End excerpt]
> >
> >Garson
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >>  ________________________________
> >>  From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
> >>  Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2019 7:04:38 PM
> >>  To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> >>  Subject: Re: Antedating of "Phoney"
> >>
> >>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> >>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> >>  Poster:       W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
> >>  Subject:      Re: Antedating of "Phoney"
> >>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>
> >>  FS:  << "This gang has succeeded in floating in the Twin Cities an immense
> >>  amount of the finest work of "phoney" plates and molds ever seen by the
> >>  officials." >>
> >>  GT:  << Plates for counterfeiting currency and molds for coins, I think. >>
> >>  WB:  Well, I'm sure it was a cabal of renegade dentists peddling
> >>  black-market dentures & tooth molds.
> >>
> >>  ------------------------------------------------------------
> >>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >>
> >>  ------------------------------------------------------------
> >>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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