An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, June 10, 2003  

PC isn't so new after all

Uh-oh. Hugh is on the case again. He tells me that my research on a "tinkers damn" is so 1877. Here's his view.

"You are, I am sorry to say, wrong about the derivation of 'Tinker's Dam'. Alas, the explanation you give was also a politically correct invention, though a C19th one.

The OED explicitly discounts your derivation, dating it to 1877 at the earliest. The expression 'not to care/be worth a tinkers curse/damn' is datable back to 1824 at least, and is a clear extension of the trend to intensify the earlier phrase 'not to care/be worth a damn', which trend dates back to at least 1763 (with a possible (disputed) link back to Middle English in the C14th), 'with reference to the reputed addiction of tinkers to profane swearing'. Indeed, the OED gives a lot of examples of decidedly politically incorrect phrases about tinkers, which have now passed out of current usage.

Incidentally, the word 'tinker' dates to the C13th, and while the exact derivation is unknown, it is believed to come from the onomatopoeic word 'tink' (i.e., the sound they made repairing pots and pans)."

posted by Sarah | 12:20 0 comments
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