Sunday, October 14, 2007

'Hobo' a Month Older Than Thought

I've learned a second new word this weekend: antedater.

The main playing field for competitive antedaters is the e-mail list of the American Dialect Society ( that's where researchers post their new finds for the record (which also serve as challenges for others to beat). Antedaters take especial delight in finding uses earlier than those shown in the OED (and in knowing their work will be picked up on by Oxford editors). Since August, the list has seen the antedating of "hydrant" pushed back to 1801 from 1828, "hobo" to September 1888 (from only a month later), and "jamboree" (meaning "a large party") to 1858, back from 1861. [Link]
This would seem a perfect sideline for genealogists. Keep an eye out for hoboes while prowling through old newspapers in search of ancestors.

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