Date: Fri, 27 Feb 1998 22:30:53 EST
Subject: Spelling Bee (long!)

The "spelling bee" is a great American institution, yet the research on
it has been shoddy, and nearly non-existent. This posting will correct that.
(I may lecture on the "spelling bee" at the ADS in January and publish
this in book form--I don't know yet.)
Spelling contests burst upon the scene to form a national spelling mania
in the spring of 1875. It's so forgotten now, however, that when the authors
of AMERICA IN SO MANY WORDS chose their word-of-the-year for 1875, they
ignored "spelling bee" (which doesn't appear anywhere in the book) and went
with the very trivial "P. D. Q."
In THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE, H. L. Mencken states on page 116 that spelling-
bee "and a hundred and one other such compounds were in daily use before the
Revolution." In Supplement One, pages 202-203, "spinning-bee" is traced to
1769, "husking-bee" to 1816, "apple-bee" to 1827, "quilting-bee" to 1832,
"logging-bee" and "raising-bee" to 1836, "pigeon-picking-bee" to 1841,
"paring-bee" to 1845, "cellar-digging-bee" and "sewing-bee" to 1856, and
"spelling-bee" to 1875. "All of them are probably older, especially
_spelling-bee_," Mencken says. In Supplement Two, page 304, note 4:

The spelling-bee was promoted by Noah Webster's famous blue-black
speller, for many years the only book, save the Bible, in general circulation
in the country. But the name _spelling-bee_, though it had congeners running
back to the Revolutionary era, is not recorded until the 1870s. Before that,
beginning in the 30s, _spelling-class_, _-match_ or _-school_ was used.
Introduced by the radio, the _spelling-bee_ had a brief but furious vogue in
England in the late 1930s.

The new Flexner-Soukhanov SPEAKING FREELY leaves out "spelling bee"
entirely! Flexner's LISTENING TO AMERICA has "Husking Bees, Quilting Bees,
and Spelling Bees" on pages 316-317:

_Spelling bees_ were a New England invention, very popular after the
Civil War. The _National Spelling Bee_ was inaugurated by the _Louisville
Courier-Journal_ in 1925 and continued under the Scripps-Howard newspapers
after 1939

From: Automatic digest processor (2/27/98)
To: Recipients of ADS-L digests

ADS-L Digest - 25 Feb 1998 to 26 Feb 1998 98-02-27 00:00:14
This message contains more text than QuickMail can display. The entire message
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There are 23 messages totalling 619 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Thong (sandals)
2. hurache? Huarache!
3. Fruit boots (was thongs/zoris) (2)
4. RE Fruit boots (was thongs/zoris)
5. NADS on the web
6. RE "Till the last dog dies" (3)
7. last dog
8. footwear
9. thong (5)
10. Butt (was Re: thong) (2)
11. Gay nineties; United States of America; March hare
12. RE Re: RE "Till the last dog dies" (2)
13. Rearend/seat (was Re: Butt (was Re: thong)) (2)


Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 00:04:48 -0500
Subject: Thong (sandals)

Larry Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU wrote:

| At 3:03 AM -0600 2/25/98, Mike Salovesh wrote:
| Of course, we already had sandals . . . but the Japanese word "zori" has
| become so accepted that it now takes a regular English plural, as in
| "zoris". (Japanese would have "one zori", "two zori", or "many zori".)
| Of course, zori (flat rubber or plastic soles held to the foot with a
| Y-shaped thong designed to pass through the space between the big toe
| and the next one) have latterly been acquiring another label, "thong
| sandals", perhaps capitalizing on the minimal titillation that might
| carry over from "thong bikinis".
| Actually, 'thong' was in my vocabulary for those rubber beach shoes long
| before 'zori'; this was on Long Island and in California in the late
| 1960's. Rather than "capitalizing on the minimal titillation" from thong
| bikinis, I take the use of the longer "thong sandals" to be a classic
| retronym (cf. acoustic guitar, analog watch, natrual turf, biological
| mother, World War I), in which a previously unmodified label takes on a
| modifier (or in the "thong" case, a head) to distinguish it from a new
| cultural innovation that invades its referential space. If I want to make
| it clear I'm talking about something to wear on my feet, it would behoove
| me to specify "thong sandals" rather than "thongs" tout court.

I'm with Larry on this one. I grew us in the New York area in the 50s/60s.
Beach and pool sandals were always called "thongs". I never encountered the
word "zori" until I moved to Texas for graduate school in the mid 1970's; my
first encounter with the term was via a classmate from northern California. It
hadn't occurred to me that the term "thong" might have been usurped from the
bathing suits (when was it that we first started reading about thong suits [in

Alice Faber