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Public tracks down Gordon Bennett

Also sniffs out dog's bollocks

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We're pleased to report that eagle-eyed amateur linguistic sleuths have tracked down the earliest sighting yet of Gordon Bennett, whose name has long been held to be a euphemism for "gorblimey", itself from "God blind me".

The discovery of Gordon in J Curtis's 1937 book You're in the Racket, Too! ("Gordon Bennett. He wasn't half tired") came as part of the Oxford English Dictionary's Wordhunt appeal, which invites the public to provide verifiable evidence of a word or phrase's use before the current earliest recorded spot.

The latest updates to the list include wazzock (now tracked back to 1976), dogging (1986), and Glasgow kiss (1982).

The most illuminating update, though, is for dog's bollocks - described in 1949 as "a colon followed by a dash, regarded as forming a shape resembling the male sexual organs".

By 1989, UK mag Viz had adopted the phrase in its "dog's bollocks" compendium, ("the best of issues 26 to 31"). However, the OED can now reveal that around 1986, sleeve notes for the cassette Gambler rather splendidly declared: "They are of the opinion that, when it comes to Italian opera, Pavarotti is the dog's bollocks."

Other delights currently under scrutiny are "dog and bone" (verifiable evidence before 1961 required), "bonkers" (got a sighting before 1957 or "information on the origins of the word"?) and "plonker" (so far traced back to 1966).

Regarding some form of IT angle for this illuminating piece, we should note that the first recorded use of "identity theft" was back on 6 July 1989 in Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel. The headline read: "Identity theft besmirches victims' records." ®

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