Tuesday, 27 April 2021

nik of time

With a different sort of Sputnik with its attributed suffix being in the news again, we rather enjoyed this shared correction, letter to the editor that disputes the etymology that credits the pioneering Soviet satellite with enriching the English language with the terms peaceniks, beatniks and no-goodniks, whereas first usage of the formulation precedes the orbit by decades, with H. L. Mencken mentioning –nic or –nick as part of the lexiography as a suffix indicating free agency with examples including a boastful upstart in Allrightnick and a victim of tuberculosis in a consumptionick. Judging by the above and number of comments garnered, the claims and counter-claims (the truth is probably somewhere in between) are a good illustration of the phenomenon called Cunningham’s Law. The idiom‘s nick is an archery term and referring to the nock or notch of a bow that holds the bowstring.