[Ads-l] "maverick" redux

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 10 19:44:16 UTC 2022

The earliest OED3 cite for "maverick" meaning "an unbranded calf or
yearling" is the following:

1867   Daily Herald (San Antonio, Texas) 20 June   The term maverick which
was formerly applied to unbranded yearlings is now applied to every calf
which can be separated from the mother cow.

As Stephen Goranson noted in a 2015 thread, this cite was given in a
footnote by Ralph P. Bieber in a 1940 edition of Joseph G. McCoy's
_Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest_
(originally published in 1874).


I haven't been able to corroborate that cite, since I can't find a
digitized version of that edition of the San Antonio Daily Herald. (OED3
doesn't give a page number, which suggests they're relying on the Bieber
footnote.) In any case, I found a slightly earlier example in a different
San Antonio paper (via Genealogybank).

San Antonio Express, Tuesday, May 21, 1867, p. 3, col. 2
"The Columbus And San Antonio Railroad Meeting"
We can't help thinking that if Mr. Schleicher, who is strongly interested
in the Indianola line, will be candid, he must confess that the resolutions
drafted by him were dictated by his kind feelings for the speaker, and are
thus nothing more than an unmeaning politeness, not intended to induce the
people of San Antonio to invest money, land, labor, provisions, or cattle;
nay, not even a single maverick, in the Columbus, Gonzalez, San Antonio and
Rio Grande Railroad.

The article notes that the meeting on a "projected railroad from Columbus
to San Antonio and the Rio Grande" was chaired by "Mr. Maverick"
(presumably Samuel Maverick), so the reference to "not even a single
maverick" appears to be a playful allusion to Maverick's practice of
leaving his cattle unbranded.


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

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