World Wide Words: Bulldozer

A surprisingly long etymology of the word “bulldoze”, which has its roots in Reconstruction and slavedriving.  Pretty fascinating.  If you’re a word nerd like myself, take a few minutes and read up on it.

The word is definitely American. The earliest sense had nothing to do with machinery, but referred to a severe punishment, in particular one applied with a bullwhip. Detailed explanations appear in several US newspapers in the latter months of 1876, the earliest I’ve found being the day before the presidential election of 1876, which historians suggest may have been the most hard-fought, corrupt and rigged election in the history of the Union. All say that it came into being as a result of a determined attempt by Democrat supporters in the Southern states to stop blacks from voting Republican. This is the way the origin of the expression was explained in the Gettysburg Compiler of 11 January 1877…

via World Wide Words: Bulldozer.

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