The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trash-talking George Eliot

I checked out Middlemarch from our library so I wouldn't fall too far behind on my Dailylit subscription. I'm enjoying it a great deal (to the extent that I'm ignoring Gil Brewer's Vengeful Virgin and the pile of Manga that I brought as back-ups).

I made a fun phrase origin discovery in chapter 45 (page 407 of the Bantam pb edition). In reference to some rumor mongering about the forward-thinking Dr. Lydgate, the author states:
The trash talked on such occasions was the more vexatious to Lydgate, because it was precisely the sort of prestige which an incompetent and unscrupulous man would desire....
This is actually in reference to some ignorant and misplaced praise offered by individuals from a lower-class, rather than insults or slander.

I don't have access to etymological texts at the moment but most internet resources indicate that "trash talk" is of colloquial African-American origin. The Eliot 1870-71 reference indicates that it might be associated with the term "white trash"--which can be traced back at least to the 1820s.

I'm gonna keep reading and see if I can sort out who made the first "booty call".

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