[Ads-l] Antedating of "swot | swat"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 8 09:38:13 UTC 2020

"swot | swat", n., OED 1850:

1. Work or study at school or college; in early use spec. mathematics.
Hence gen. labour, toil.

Here's two 1844s, both by Sir John William Kaye, about military engineering
cadets studying mathematics, one with an etymology from "sweat".


1844, Kaye, John William, chapter 3, in Peregrine Pultuney: or, Life in
India‎, volume I, Adelaide Street, Trafalgar Square, London: John Mortimer,
retrieved 8 January 2020, page 73:

These seemed to be talking very vehemently about something they called
One of these young gentlemen who had black hair and a pimpled face, seeing
Peregrine, turned round and asked him "how far had he gone?"
"Where" asked Peregrine, hastily.
"In swat!" said the pimple-faced boy.
"What's swat?" asked Peregrine Pultuney.


1844, “Rules and Regulations of the Honorable East India Company's Seminary
at Addiscombe, 1834”, in John William Kaye, editor, Calcutta Review‎,
volume II, No. 4 Tank Square, Calcutta: Sanders and Cones, retrieved 8
January 2020, page 136:

There is work enough—and too much—without this voluntary labor. The
confinement during the bright sunny hours of the day is irksome and
dispiriting; and it may be fairly questioned whether less would be learnt,
if the study hours were reduced from nine to seven—especially as the
greater part of these nine long hours is devoted to Mathematics. The cadets
have a shorter word for it; they call it swat—a monosyllable which may
puzzle the etimologists; but we believe it to be a corruption of the word
sweat, and as signifying that a knowledge of mathematics is only to be
acquired with much toil—with much sweat of the brow—a sufficiently
expressive, word it must be acknowledged.


Links to Google Books at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/swat#Noun
And screenshots: https://twitter.com/hugovk/status/1214838956610732034


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

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