Dictionary.com has declared fink to be the word of the day today
Fink emerged as a slang term in the US in the early 1900s. Its origin is unknown, but some etymologists cite the German word of the same spelling, which means “a frivolous or dissolute person,” as a possible lexical ancestor.
Are there no etymologists who were watching Disney in the early 1960s? Mike Fink didn’t get invented by Disney (although everything gets reinvented and bowdlerized by them). He was already the stuff of legends in the 19th century.
Howe’s wonderful Historical Collections of Ohio weren’t rigorous works of scholarship. Instead, he traveled around the state , interviewing everyone, publishing their accounts without censorship. ”
Nobody is a villain in their own accounts, but in small communities, liars are quickly detected, and there are severe economic consequences to being thought untrustworthy. And Howe didn’t just relate the stories about Fink, he interviewed 81-year-old Fink in 1886.
It wouldn’t surprise me to find that originally, a fink was “another Mike Fink”
In 1903, Grandma won a county-wide essay contest in school, and the County Court judge presented her with the Statehood Centennial edition of Howe’s as a prize.
Wait a minute, there is an unspoken assumption here, that a famous name should figure in an etymology. No.
The assumption is not that it should, but that it could, and perhaps did.
The contrary assumption, that a word meaning a dissolute person should be coined out of nothingness at a time that a dissolute person of the same unusual name is in the national consciousness seems incredibly coincidental.
If you heard an artist called a pollack, would you think he was fishlike? If you read that a young politician had a hillary, wouldn’t you assume his wife was ambitious and politically inclined? If you heard that a musician was a miley, would you not assume she was free-spirited?
Words referencing pubic figures are often short-lived, but we still have hooker and sideburns in our vocabulary.
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