[Ads-l] "sooner" (Apr. 22, 1889)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 27 17:23:24 UTC 2021

OED2's earliest cites for "sooner" come from 1890. (Definition: "One who
acts prematurely; esp. one who endeavoured to get into Government territory
in the West before the time appointed for its settlement, chiefly with
reference to the settlement of the territory now known as Oklahoma before
the official opening of the area to settlers on 22 April 1889. Hence, with
capital initial, an Oklahoman.")

Back in 2006, Barry Popik pushed the date back to July 23, 1889:

Here's a cite for "'sooner' men" from a day earlier:

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 22, 1889, p. 2, col. 5
Great satisfaction is expressed over the result of the trial by those who
obeyed the law and came in after the hour of 12 on April 22. The decision
of the Land Office will no doubt hold good In regard to town lots, and the
"sooner" men appear to be In the soup.

And here is "sooner" from April 22, without explicit reference to the
Oklahoma land rush. But since the article appeared on the day the territory
was opened, and since it's used in conjunction with "boomer," a more
general term for the Oklahoma settlers, it seems the readers were supposed
to get the reference.

Oil City (Pa.) Derrick, Apr 22, 1889, p. 8, col. 1
By the appearance of things it would seem that the seven tramps who have
been hanging around the city for the past few days, are regular boomers, or
"sooners," or something of that order, and are probably waiting a favorable
opportunity to carry off the railroad company's iron bridge, or something
else laying around loose, probably the latter.

The front page of that edition of the Oil City Derrick has news about the
Oklahoma "boomers."


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

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