[Ads-l] Antedating "mammoth" (big) - 1801 (was "big cheese" 1815)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 1 17:12:33 UTC 2023

“Mammoth,” as an adjective referring to something big.

A few months earlier than my last post.  Not related to a big cheese.

[Begin excerpt]
New Jersey. Trenton, April 28. On Thursday last was brought to this place the famous MAMMOTH OX, bred by John Humphries of Hopewell, in this county.
[End excerpt]

Green Mountain Patriot (Peacham, Vermont), May 28, 1801, page 3.

I was a bit disappointed to find it earlier than the “mammoth cheese” because it seemed to be a more interesting story if the adjective sense of “mammoth” had originated in reference to a “big cheese.”

Mammoths were in the news at the time, because Peale’s museum in Philadelphia had just assembled and displayed a full mammoth skeleton for the first time anywhere.

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

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