Date: Sun, 7 Dec 1997 17:13:23 -0600 From: Chris Corcoran Subject: Re: Cocktail Perhaps this ground has already been covered, but ... I believe Dillard has suggested that cocktail is a borrowing from West African varieties of English. I know that 'cocktail' in Sierra Leone Krio is the word for scorpion, so presumably Dillard suggests the usage is analogous to stinger. Chris Corcoran At 12:18 AM 12/3/97 -0500, Barry Popik wrote: >COCKTAIL > > Peter Tamony's papers on "cocktail" probably have everything there is to >say on this. A turf poem containing "cocktail" was posted here a few days >ago. > This is from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 25 October 1904, "Everybody's >Column," pg. 8, col. 4: > > WHENCE THE WORD "COCKTAIL" (J. C. P.)--"Dear Sir: Can you tell me the >derivation of the name .cocktail,' that seductive but insidious drink, much >used by the American 'bon vivant'? Is it a U. S. idiomatic word, or is it of >an earlier period? > When such an authority as Murray's New English Dictionary, which may >well claim to be the largest, if not the highest, of its kind (half a dozen >ponderous volumes, and not complete at that) describes "cocktail" as "chiefly >U. S. (a slang name of which the real origin appears to be lost)" it must be >presumptuous on the part of a poor "U. S. newspaper man" to open his mouth on >the subject. > In all due fear and trembling, therefore, we would fain suggest that in >certain parts of Murray's own country, notably in Yorkshire generally and >Sheffield particularly, beer that is full of life, fresh and foaming, is >dialectically known as "cocktail beer;" the transfer, in popular, >rough-and-ready parlance, of the name "cocktail" from a fizzy, foaming, >life-full beer to a life-imparting, "cocking-up" rouser such as the "U. S. >cocktail" is credited to be, appears to us a very short step; and we humbly >beg the privilege of recording the name for your benefit, friend J. C. P. > As to the origin of the English dialectical "cocktail beer," it seems >likely to be, like a score of other similar forms, the outsome of the popular >blending of two notions--"a tail like that of a cock," and "a tail that cocks >up." > > This is from the New York Herald, 16 October 1921, section 7, cols. 4-5, >pg. 6: > >Bits of Horse Lore Out of the Usual >By Martha McCullouch Williams >(...) > WHAT is a cocktail? (...) Harking back to cocktail, it strikes me as >possible that the cant name comes remotely from the Arab practice of bending >the tail bone of a newly dropped foal over the forefinger till its upper >vertebra is dislocated. This insures, after healing, a high carriage of the >tail--something more barbarously secured by the farrier's practice of >nicking. > Thus the cocktail came to be held an indication of spirit, eke of >blood--horses showing foot and gameness might well be entitled to it. > As to how the name came to fit also a drink here is a theory, not so far >fetched as some, with a few facts behind it. When Washington fought the >redcoats for possession of New York town he and his staff rested at a house >of call in what is now The Bronx, and were there waited on by a buxom >landlady, a widow who had a fine hand at mixing things spirituous. One day >she tried a new brew, sipped, then swallowed, then passed the potion as a >stirrup gup to her guests, already in saddle, saying: > "Drink hearty, gentlemen. It's good! I say so. 'Twill make ye each >feel as sassy as a cocktail." > (...) > >