MLive, “Actually, ‘Michigander’ was used before Abraham Lincoln’s speech”

February 15, 2015

Fritz Klug, “Actually, ‘Michigander’ was used before Abraham Lincoln’s speech” (MLive, Feb. 15, 2015)

I called Ben Zimmer, the executive editor of and the Visual Thesaurus as well the language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He had written about Lincoln and Michigander previously.

For a long time, it was sourced that Lincoln was the first to use term. But new evidence shows that the term was used beforehand, as well as people using it to describe Lewis Cass.

“It would be erroneous to say that [Lincoln is] solely responsible for coining it,” Zimmer said.

Advancements in technology have changed how words are sourced. Zimmer said searchable databases of newspapers and other texts have allowed earlier uses and senses of the words to be discovered.

“It’s becoming increasingly easy to debunk word lore based on evidence we can collect on digitized databases,” Zimmer said.

Read the rest here.

Previous post:

Next post: