William Safire, “On Language: Haircut” (New York Times, Jan. 11, 2009)
J. Sinclair Armstrong, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Dallas Security Dealers Association on Nov. 1, 1955, about rules to “provide more stringent standards in valuing the broker’s assets. . . . These are the so-called ‘haircut’ provisions” that sought a 30 percent deduction from the market value of stocks in computing the broker’s net capital. Armstrong used the colorful term in subsequent Congressional testimony, but always with “so-called,” a dignity-conscious person’s way of dissociating himself from bean-counter slang.
Discovery of this early usage was provided us by the netymologist Ben Zimmer, executive producer at the lively Visual Thesaurus Web site (www.visualthesaurus.com).
(I thought I just coined netymologist, combining net and etymologist, to mean “one deft at using the Internet to track the origin of words and phrases.” But when I Googled the word to make sure no other great mind was thinking alike — drat! — up popped a previous usage by a communications-design group named M2 urging, “If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a Netymologist, contact us.” When it comes to coinage-claiming, the increasingly omniscient Web won’t let you get away with a thing.)
Read the rest here.