Friday, October 31, 2008

Jack-o-lantern etymology from OED

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Today's word is jack-o'-lantern:

{dag}1. A man with a lantern; a night watchman.

1663 STAPLETON Slighted Maid III. 48, I am an Evening dark as Night, Jack-with-the-Lantern, bring a Light. 1698-1700 E. WARD Lond. Spy II. (1709) 32 Each Parochial Jack-a-Lanthorn was Croaking about Streets the Hour of Eleven. a1704 T. BROWN Lett. fr. Dead Wks. 1760 II. 195 Who should come by before I could get up again, but the constable going his rounds, who quickly made me centre of a circle of jack of lanthorns.

2. An ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp; = friar's lantern (FRIAR n. 9b); fig. something misleading or elusive.

1673 RAY Journ. Low C. 410 Those reputed Meteors..known in England by the conceited names of Jack with a Lanthorn, and Will with a Wisp. 1749 FIELDING Tom Jones XII. xii, Partridge..firmly believed..that this light was a Jack with a lantern, or somewhat more mischievous. 1750 S. HALES Earthquakes 10 Plenty of inflammable sulphureous Matter in the Air, such as Ignes fatui, or Jack-a-Lanterns. 1775 SHERIDAN Rivals III. iv, I have followed Cupid's Jack-a-lantern, and find myself in a quagmire. 1862 H. MARRYAT Year in Sweden II. 67 As a mist rises, Jack-o'-lantern flits his pale light over the swamp. 1870 LOWELL Study Wind. 5 Supplying so many more jack-o'-lanterns to the future historian.
attrib. 1750-1 Student II. 352 a mere Jack~lanthorn nature, neither here nor there. 1817 COLERIDGE Biog. Lit. 293 The characters in this act frisk about, here, there, and everywhere, as teasingly as the Jack o'Lantern lights which mischievous boys..throw with a looking-glass on the faces of their opposite neighbours.

3. A lantern made of the rind of a large turnip or a pumpkin, in which holes are cut to represent eyes, nose, and mouth; a turnip- or (in U.S.) pumpkin-lantern. North Eng., Sc., and U.S.

1837 HAWTHORNE Twice-Told Tales 222 Hide it [sc. the great carbuncle] under thy cloak, say'st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'lantern! 1959 I. & P. OPIE Lore & Lang. Schoolch. xii. 269 As soon as it is dark on Hallowe'en they take the lighted ‘Jack-o-lanterns’ and put them on their gateposts.

Hence jack-o'-lantern v. intr. (nonce-wd.), to play or move erratically like a will-o'-the-wisp.

1891 G. MEREDITH One of our Conq. I. iv. 52 His Puckish fancy jack-o'-lanterning over it.

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