Issue 198, page 4

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From Robin

There is another usage of the word swag and that is as an anagram for "sh*t we aint got" it refers to large ticket items such as box seats, DVD players, and vacation trips given to managers and buyers who place large orders. The swag are bonuses that are "off the books"

Actually, that would be an acronym, but, unfortunately, swag isn't.  The word came first, with the current meaning, as discussed last issue, of "free promotional stuff".  The meaning has now broadened so that the free promotional stuff is no longer inexpensive, and now it is given as a reward or kickback for business.   The phrase that is the supposed source of the acronym was back-formed from the word.  

From RS&A:

Here and I thought SWAG meant: Scientific Wild Assed Guess

Rather appropriate here, but yet another apocryphal explanation of the origin of the word swag.

From Judith Baron

I'd like to point out that the use of the word schwag to refer to unsatisfactory marijuana seems to me to be related to the German/Yiddish schwach, meaning weak.  In my family, schwach or schwag was always used to pass judgment on the morning's coffee, unless, of course it was too stark (strong).

Excellent!  We were assuming that a Yiddish word was influencing the current pronunciation of English swag (as schwag), but we hadn't found that word, yet.  Until now.  These are two different words (though they may be ultimately related - we just need to do some Yiddish/Old High German etymology sleuthing) with similar meanings, so that one is affecting the pronunciation of the other.  Fascinating. 

From John Nevill:

In this week's Words to the Wise you wrote about the etymology of the word swag. I work in the facilities maintenance supply business and sell a tool that plumbers use to join two lengths of copper or other thin walled tubing. This tool is called a swaging tool. My catalog reads "One tool swages 6 sizes of tubing." I was wondering if this is etymologically related to the swag you discussed in this article.

The OED identifies a swage as "a tool for bending cold metal (or moulding potter's clay) to the required shape; also, a die or stamp for shaping metal on an anvil, in a press, etc."  To swage is "to shape or bend by means of a swage." The word derives from Old French souage  "an ornamental grooving, moulding, border or mount on a candlestick, basin or other vessel".  The theme here is "bending" or "curving", as candlesticks and basins are usually rounded and so any ornamental grooves on them would have been curved or bent, and the original swage tool would "bend" cold metal.

From Sue:

My sources indicate that pshaw is not a negative word uttered when annoyed, it's a derivative of "Ah shucks", "Ahh, go on with yourself", usually a reply when someone is trying to be modest about a compliment they were given. The girl who wondered why her grandmother spoke this word may have been given the opposite meaning from your posted reply. Perhaps the word has more than one meaning? I only know this word as a coy, pleasant response, not the definition you provide FYI.

[Read our original discussion of pshaw.]  We consider the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) to be the ultimate source regarding word meanings, and this is what they say about pshaw:

int. An exclamation expressing contempt, impatience, or disgust.

This is also the meaning that we (M&M) have associated with the word for as far back as we can remember.  That is not to say that pshaw's meaning can't be softened.  It also may be that a softer meaning is currently gaining popularity.  However, we have never heard it used to mean "Aw, shucks".

This word, and the meaning given above (which is the only meaning, as far as the OED is concerned), date back to the mid-17th century.

From David Axelrod:

Sorry to send this to you a few years late, but I just discovered your wonderful site.  In issue 100 you ascribed the non-standard spelling of through to a mission of the Chicago Times to rationalize American spelling. It was actually the Chicago Tribune, as this paper by John Burke Shipley explains:

Well, we are certainly going to believe the Spelling Society on this one!


Or read the last issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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Last Updated 03/01/05 10:30 PM