[Ads-l] Antedating "to root" - as in cheering for or supporting a team

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 5 02:20:42 UTC 2019

Great work investigating "rooter", "rooting", Peter. The billiards
citations are intriguing.

On Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 6:12 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Etymonline.com lists the earliest date of "root," meaning "cheer, support . . . originally in a baseball context" as 1889.  It says the etymology is uncertain, but generally thought to be from an earlier sense of "root," meaning hard work, which, in turn, was based on "root," as in a pig digging with a snout.
> I found one early example, from 1888, in a billiards context.  The headline is consistent with the hard work sense of the word.  The description of "rooting" here seems focused more on making physical gestures and articulations to encourage the ball, than on the cheering or support as it later came to be understood.
> [excerpt]
> A Fine Specimen of the Billiard "Rooter" Hard at Work.
> . . . "Don't you know what a rooter is?" asked the proprietor.  'Why, it's a man as 'roots' the legs off the tables and the color from the balls, bending htis way and that and trying to influence his ball to count. . . . they watched him follow his ball down the rail, grab a corner of the table with one hand, then lean over the ball and all but move it with his other hand so that it would count. . . . "There he goes again," as the gentlemanly opponent made an unprotested miss, and the "rooter" again took the cue.  "See how he twitched his mouth that time," and "Oh, see him fish," as the excited player trotted after his ball, then made motions with his cue like those of a fisherman whipping a trout stream to indicate the way he wanted his cue ball to go.
> [End excerpt]
> The Evening World (New York), April 25, 1888, page 3.

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