[Ads-l] "Pom-poms" - "Pom-pons" (was "to hell in a hand-barrow" interdating 1831)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 18 21:37:13 UTC 2020

I have only ever said or written "pom-pom," although I have heard 
"pom-pon" frequently throughout my life.

"Pom-pom" appears to be the original spelling, although "Pom-pon," and a 
debate over the difference between the appropriate for the cheer 
accessory as opposed to the automatic gun, dates to at least 1924.

[Excerpt] It's Pom-Pons - Not Pom-Poms. In the Review two weeks ago it 
was announced that pom-poms would be used at the football game.  In the 
last Review it was stated that pom pons had been sold and used at the 
football game.
Since a pom-pon is one of the blue and white play-things which were 
displayed at the game, and since a pom-pom is an automatic gun according 
to the authorities, Washburn might have come out in the lead if, as was 
first announced, pom-poms had been distributed instead of the colorful 
[End Excerpt]
The Washburn Review (Topeka, Kansas), November 5, 1924, page 4. 

As definitive as that writer appears to have been, "pom-poms" (with that 
spelling) had been used at football games since at least as early as the 
1919 Cal-USC game (Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1919, page 8), had 
been sold at fairs since 1911 (The Evening Herald (Fall River, 
Massachusetts), September 21, 1911, page 3), and similar "paper 
pom-poms" had been worn on a helmet in a mock sword-fighting sport 
discussed in 1897 (knock the paper pom-pom off the helmet) (Kansas City 
Star, May 23, 1897, page 9).

The paper "pom-poms" used at fairs and football games appears to have 
been named from a flower, perhaps similar to a carnation, called a 
"pom-pom" and a decorative item, like a tassle, on clothing or hats, 
sometimes a feather pom-pom, sometimes a fur pom-pom. There are 
instructions on how to make a silk "pom-pom" as early as 1890 (Newcastle 
Weekly Courant (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), April 19, 1890, page 3).

The automatic guns referred to as pom-poms are first mentioned in 1899, 
with reference to the South African wars.  So name for the decorative 
items, of which the later paper pom-poms on sticks are an example, is 
older than the name of the gun, which presumably has a separate, 
unrelated etymology.

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

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