[Ads-l] Possible Further Antedating of "Woke" and "Stay Woke"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 5 06:10:13 UTC 2023

Intriguing discovery, Fred. The OED entry for woke, adj.2 contains this comment:

[Begin excerpt from OED]
For earlier metaphorical use of woke up in political context, see
quot. 1943 at woke up adj.
[End excerpt from OED]

Here is a 1913 precursor use of "woke up" in a political context. A
union organizer believes that his town should have more union members,
and he says "this town ought to be woke up". Thus, this phrase
employed "woke" instead of "woken".

Date: May 1913
Periodical: The International Bookbinder
Quote Page 211, Column 2
Publisher: International Brotherhood of Bookbinders, Indianapolis, Indiana

[Begin excerpt]
Local Union No. 27, Cincinnati, Ohio.
From: One of 32 Members

Brothers, just a few lines to let you know we are still on the map.
Our regular monthly meeting was held Friday, May 2d, and we took in
two new members, Bro. Albert Meyers and Bro. L. F. Carna, making a
total of thirty-two members. We hope the new brothers will be good
members, and no doubt they will. I know organizers cost money, but if
they are sent here the money will be well spent, as this local ought
to have at least 150 members in it, and this town ought to be woke up,
as they have been asleep for a number of years. We expect to have a
good attendance at every meeting from now on.
[End excerpt]


On Sat, Feb 4, 2023 at 1:11 PM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
> woke (OED 1962), stay woke (OED 1972)
> 1934 Indianapolis Star 18 Mar. 3/4 (Newspapers.com)  The otherwise good citizens who shirk their voting duty share the responsibility for our bad politics and the grafts, wastes and misgovernment flowing therefrom. If they will wake up and "stay woke," these first causes of the political evils which have messed up our government affairs can be largely removed.
> NOTE: The citation above has a different context from the African-American / jazz idiom that I have previously traced back to 1956. It is possible that this 1934 occurrence is an independent or coincidental coinage. Nonetheless, it closely matches the political meaning of the present-day usage.
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list