Important, nay essential research being conducted in our ivory towers…
The project belongs to Barry Popik and Gerald Cohen, described by Metcalf as “Googlers before there was Google.” Along with the help of other colleagues, they have been combing through 19th century periodicals for years, slowly amassing the world’s biggest collection of dude citations. The latest issue of Cohen’s journal, Comments on Etymology, lays out, in 129 pages, the most solidly supported account yet of the early days of dude.
So where does dude come from? Evidence points to “doodle,” as in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He’s the fellow who, as the song has it, “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.” “Macaroni” became a term for a dandy in the 18th century after young British men returned from their adventures on the European continent sporting exaggerated high-fashion clothes and mannerisms (along with a taste for an exotic Italian dish called “macaroni”). The best a rough, uncultured colonist could do if he wanted to imitate them was stick a feather in his cap.
“For some reason,” Metcalf says, “early in 1883, this inspired someone to call foppish young men of New York City ‘doods,’ with the alternate spelling ‘dudes’ soon becoming the norm.” Some of the early mocking descriptions of these dudes seem awfully familiar today: “A weak mustache, a cigarette, a thirteen button vest/A curled rim hat — a minaret — two watch chains cross the breast.” Yep, sounds like a hipster. But that word has gotten so stale. We should all go back to “dood,” or maybe even “doodle.”
(click here to continue reading Dude: Etymology of the word is traced to “doodle,” as in Yankee Doodle Dandy..)
Here’s a poem, courtesy of the Brooklyn Sunday Eagle for April 22, 1883:
“What is the dude, papa?” she said, with sweet, inquiring eyes,
And to the knowledge seeking maid,
her daddy thus replies:
A weak mustache, a cigarette, a thirteen button vest,
A curled rim hat—a minaret—two watch chains cross the breast.
A pair of bangs, a lazy drawl, a lackadaisy air;
For gossip at the club or ball, some little past “affair.”
Two pointed shoes, two spindle shanks, complete the nether charms;
And follow fitly in the ranks, the two bow legged arms.
An empty head, a buffoon’s sense, a poising attitude;
“By Jove” “Egad!” “But aw” “Immense!”
All these make up the dude.
(click here to continue reading Dude! – Lingua Franca – The Chronicle of Higher Education.)
Bill Cunningham Ready, in other words, or BCR – our private code to point out a stylish dresser approaching on the street. As in “He’s BCR!” – meaning, if Bill Cunningham saw this person, he’d take the dood’s (or doodine’s) photo.