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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

raring to go

Naturally I'm not the only one out there who pondered such obscure things as the etymology of the phrase, "raring to go."  In my Internet search, I came across another blogger's posting regarding this most fascinating topic, "Etymology On the Go" by The Fryside.  He beat me by about four years.

I thought I'd go into more excruciating detail, though.

While most websites indicate that "raring" originated in the 1920s, the Oxford English Dictionary (site requires a subscription) provides an example of the use of "raring" as in "wild, angry; excited, spirited," dating back as far as 1845, in the American Whig Review (November issue, page 516), which I found online via Cornell University Library's Making of America site.  The American Whig Review was a "Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science" per the Making of America site.

The quote is from an article titled, "Adventures on the Frontier of Texas and Mexico," by Charles Winterfield.  The text is actually pretty offensive by current standards, about beating up a woman and including racial slurs.  The text is meant to be amusing (I think).  Here's some excerpts:

“What do you mean, you scamp, by his woman wanting to steal his things!” said I – a good deal amused by this cute fashion of getting out of a scrape.

“Lor! ain’t you hearn yit?  Why, he went and tuck her by the hair and dragged her out’en her old dad’s house, and he wooled her, and he… [more descriptions of beating]… May-be he warn’t in a rarin [my italics] tarin tantrum and all just because the [offensive descriptions of the woman] got scairt and swom ‘cross the river when the Injuns comed!..."
For "raring" as in "eager, keen, fully ready to do something", like "raring to go", the Oxford English Dictionary provides a quote from B.M. Bower's Cabin Fever, a Western, published in 1918, and available on Project Gutenberg's site.

Feet came hurrying. Two voices mumbled together. "Here he is," said one. "That's the number I gave him." Bud felt some one step hurriedly upon the running board. The tonneau door was yanked open. A man puffed audibly behind him. "Yuh ready?" Foster's voice hissed in Bud's ear.
"R'aring to go [my italics]." Bud heard the second man get in and shut the door, and he jerked the gear lever into low. His foot came gently back with the clutch, and the car slid out and away.

Interesting that an apostrophe is inserted in "r'aring to go"... dropping the "o" in "roaring to go".

Bower apparently wrote some 57 Westerns in all from 1904 to 1941.  Wikipedia has a brief description of her.

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