By Anatoly Liberman
Every now and then, some words arouse public curiosity and produce a torrent of correspondence: people write letters to the editors, argue with one another, and offer etymological conjectures. In the past, Notes and Queries on both sides of the Atlantic, The Athenaeum, and The Nation regularly served as an outlet for this type of exchange. It is hard to believe how much ink (yes, in the past writers used ink: look it up in some good dictionary) was wasted on the history of theodolite “an instrument for measuring angles; level, bubble,” a word that hardly anyone remembers today (my spell-check suggested that I replace it with theologize, but I refused). A similar case is blizzard. Alongside the predictable attempts to trace the word to its source (English? German? Irish?), the fateful question—British or American?—was broached again and again. On one hand, it is a pity to cede territory; on the other, who needs what is not one’s own? Modern dictionaries make cautious suggestions about the etymology of blizzard or say “origin unknown” (better solidly safe than eternally sorry). And yet we know almost everything we need about the rise and development of this word.
As usual, a good deal depends on how we define “know.” If it means discovering the person who on a certain day coined the word and explained his or her motivation for coming up with it, the origin of few words will ever be “known.” But if we strive to reconstruct the circumstances in which our word could have arisen and show that our reconstruction does not run counter to the capricious laws of semantics and the rigid laws of phonetics, our chance of success will often be high.
Here are a few points. Although blizzard ends in the suffix –ard, it need not be equal to the transparent sum of blizz– and –ard. Bastard, buzzard, coward, dastard, gizzard, haggard, and niggard, let alone billiard, placard, and poniard, yield no meaningful roots after the subtraction of –ard (bastards have nothing to do with bast, buzzards do not buzz, and cowards are not cowherds, while dast-, gizz-, and the others do not even exist as separate entities), but drunkard, braggart, and dullard do fall into two recognizable components each: a drunkard is a drunk, braggarts are prone to bragging, and dullards are dolts. Blizz “rainstorm” has been attested, but it had minimal currency. Now to the country of origin. The family name Blizzard, with one z or two, has been around for centuries, but the derivation of the name and its ties with the noun blizzard are uncertain. Blizzer, blizzom, blizzomer, and even the past participle blizzarded have been recorded in British dialects. According to the recollections of an old lady, the following charm was recited in Yorkshire at the beginning of the 19th century: “From wizards, and blizzards, and long-tailed buzzards, / From things as flies, and things as creeps through other folks’ hedges, / Good Lord, deliver us.” This is gibberish, and the woman had no idea what blizzards meant, but the word stuck in her memory. The Century Dictionary makes the reasonable assumption that blizzard “existed almost unrecognized in British provincial use, whence it passed into American use.”
Thanks to a thorough investigation of Allen Walker Read, we know that in 1765 the form Blizard (with one z) appeared as the name of a Massachusetts ship. There is no one to ask why this name was chosen. Did Mr. Blizard own the ship? Or was it supposed to carry a message comparable to Formidable and Invincible? From 1829 on we have an uninterrupted record of the word’s use, and these are its meanings (in the order of appearance, as they say in theater programs): “a violent blow” (presumably a fisticuff) (1829), “a rifle shot” (1834), “a volley of words” (1835), “a hard strike in baseball” (1836), “a hit from an arrow” (1856). A poetaster used blizzard as some sort of interjection or filler with the vague meaning “quick.” In the early eighties, blizzard, the noun and the verb, turned up with the significations “an alcoholic drink; a sudden storm; discharge of musketry; to move at high velocity; to shoot a shotgun.” The great day in the history of blizzard was March 14, 1870. “The first storm of which there is any record came on the 14th of March, 1870, and was for years remembered as the great blizzard. There had been storms before, many of them every winter, but the one in the spring of 1870 came at a time not expected” (quoted by Read). The place of action is Iowa, and it is from there that blizzard “a snowstorm” spread to the rest of the country, to become eventually known in England as well. Its other meanings were soon forgotten. Thus, it is not the word blizzard but its current meaning that can be called an Americanism.
Despite the “origin unknown” stigma attached to blizzard, most researchers (and I mean researchers, not the authors of fanciful or folk etymological hypotheses) have offered similar derivations of our word. The original sense of blizzard must have been “a violent outburst,” and bluster immediately comes to mind as a word of nearly the same sound shape and meaning. The groups bl- and b…l render various sound effects: consider babble, blob, burble, bubble, bobolink (a bird’s name), and blow among others. Presumably, bluster and bliz(z) belonged to that group. Such words may never acquire broader meanings, but a metaphor occasionally gives them greater exposure. For example, buzz, to quote the OED, means “to make a sibilant humming sound” (oh, the aptness and beauty of such definitions!). The appearance of the noun buzzword allowed buzz to increases its scope of application, while the polite advice to an importune person to buzz off weakened its ties with sibilant flies and mosquitoes still further. Cattle running away from the swarms of buzzing horseflies were called bisig in the old language; this is the most likely origin of the adjective busy and its Dutch cognate bezig (originally “incessantly occupied”: compare busybody). Blizz, like buzz, must have existed on the outskirts of spoken English for an indefinite period of time. To be sure, we cannot know when it arose. In similar fashion, we have no way of knowing when puff, hush, whew, and their ilk first emerged in the language. Nor do we care. Someone added a living suffix to bliz(z) and produced blizzard. We should not ask who expanded bliz(z) into blizzard and when. As long as the suffix remained productive, it could happen in any place at any time.
So this is the solution of the puzzle. In British rural speech, there existed a sound imitative complex blizz expressing the idea of great quickness. When the suffix –ard was added to it, the new word began to denote all kinds of things having an immediate effect on its victim, from “a gunshot” to “an intoxicating drink.” Most records are from American English. In 1870, in Iowa, a violent snowstorm was called a blizzard. Storms and hurricanes travel fast. Today blizzard is an established part of the vocabulary of English. What else do we not know about its history? Suggestions are welcome.
Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to firstname.lastname@example.org; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”
Applications for the following scholarships are now available in the high school guidance office. It is your responsibility to monitor deadlines and requirements of each scholarship. Please make sure you complete and return to the high school guidance office one week before the scholarship deadline. Mrs. Baughman must have your transcript and other essentials added to the application and the postmark must be on or before the deadline date. If you have any questions please contact Mrs. Baughman. Email: email@example.comReturn completed applications ONE (1) week before deadline to the guidance counselor, Mrs. Baughman.
Scholarships are in order of DEADLINE DATE.
Delta Kappa Gamma $750 – Awarded to an outstanding female pursuing a degree in education. Typed essay describing your goals and why you are choosing the teaching profession. Two letters of recommendation from teachers. DEADLINE February 26
Harry B. Crewson Freshman Scholarship (3) $3,000 Members of the OU credit union and their children are eligible to apply. Excellence in community activities in addition to academic achievement in high school. Complete the application and three recommendation forms. DEADLINE March 1
OAPSE Memorial Scholarship Foundation High school senior whose parent or legal guardian is a member in good standing in OAPSE/AFSCME who will be attending a two or four year school. DEADLINE March 1
The Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Ohio – Pick up application in the high school office. DEADLINE: March 1
The J. Brannon Hull Scholarship $1,000 renewable upon meeting required criteria – maximum of $4,000 (see fund booklet) Applicants must be enrolled at Crooksville High School prior to the first day of November of their freshman year and maintain continuous enrollment at CHS. Three letters of recommendation, GPA 2.5. Priority shall be given to applicants whose application shows a probability of success in higher education and who are both a direct descendent of a Hull Pottery Company employee and a graduate of Crooksville High school. DEADLINE March 15
Foundation for Appalachia Ohio – Please check in the high school office for regional and geographic specific opportunities and to pick up a scholarship packet. DEADLINE March 15
Ronald E. Rosser Public Service Scholarship – $500 – attend CHS for four years, must pursue a degree in public service field, two letters of recommendation; 2.5 GPA, attend four year college, member of current graduating class DEADLINE March 15
Richard and Gary Rosser $500b – Must have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 grade in a college preparatory course of study through seven (7) semesters. Student must be going to a four year college for education degree. Scholarship will be paid upon proof of enrollment in an approved teaching related program. DEADLINE March 15
Kayla D. Grimmett Memorial Scholarship – $1,000 – attend CHS for four years, participated in drama, choir, band, or flag corp. Member of current graduating class, two letters of recommendation, 2.0 GPA, attend a two or four year college. Write a cover letter telling about yourself. DEADLINE March 15
The MacGahan Foundation $500 – graduating senior of a Perry County school. 3.0 GPA or higher, attend current school 3 of 4 years, attend 4 year college – DEADLINE Third Friday in March 16
Pat P. Goebel Memorial Scholarship $1,000 – Crooksville High School Senior, GPA 2.5 or higher, 3 letters of recommendation; application, essay, and resume. DEADLINE March 16
IBI Group Scholarship Fund (two scholarships at $1,000 each) – attend high school in Perry County for two years, 2.5 or higher GPA, CP classes, 4 year college, two letters of recommendation. DEADLINE March 30
The Hammer Family Scholarship $1,000 – Crooksville High School Senior that has attended all four years. Accepted to a four year college, two letters of recommendation from CHS faculty. Typed application DEADLINE March 31
COAD David A. Stivison Appalachian Community Action Scholarship Fund This scholarship has several different requirements and application sections. Please see Mrs. Baughman for an application so she may go over the criteria. DEADLINE April 1
Hull Pottery Association $1,000 – one time awards on an annual basis to the students demonstrating the highest level of need as determined by the committee as a result of the application and the essay (150 words or less) describing financial need for the award. Copy of parents’ W-2 forms, completed FAFSA, or other proof of income. Two letters of recommendation from non-relatives. DEADLINE April 1
Xi Kappa Omicron Scholarship – $300 GPA 3.0, senior attended all four years at Crooksville High School, be involved in your community and school, immediate family members of Xi Kappa Omicron are ineligible, this is a nonrenewable scholarship. Write 500 word essay. DEADLINE April 1
Mollie Bee Williams Memorial Scholarship – $500 – senior who has attended four years at Crooksville High School, GPA 2.5 be enrolled at an accredited college, university, or career trade school (two – four year program) Transcript must be attached and completed application. DEADLINE April 1
Jimmy Dickerson Memorial Fund $500 – attend CHS and be a graduating senior, must attend a higher educational institution DEADLINE April 1
Walter and Hazel Singer/Crooksville Masonic Lodge Scholarship $500 – CHS student, 2.0 GPA, pass OGT tests, 500 word essay, two letters of recommendation DEADLINE April 1
Thomas McKinney Memorial Scholarship $500 – attend CHS for four years and/or MECTC, accepted at a two or four year college or university, two years of 4-H or be in the power lineman program at MECTC, 2.2 GPA, two letters of recommendation. DEADLINE April 1
Crooksville/Roseville VFW Post 9090 – Must have a relative that is or has been a veteran of a foreign war (need a DD214 Form), GPA of no less than 2.75 and no more than 3.5 DEADLINE April 1
Crooksville Alumni Scholarship $500 – current CHS grad, 2.00 GPA, essay required DEADLINE April 4
Crooksville Education Association Scholarship ($500) – attended CHS for four years, 3.00GPA, enroll in child development or education program DEADLINE April 4
Jena and Jenna Memorial Softball Scholarship – $500 scholarship to a softball player and $250 to a softball and basketball player DEADLINE April 4
The William D Squires Educational Foundation, Inc. ($3,000 per year) This scholarship is based upon financial need. Minimum 3.20 cum GPA DEADLINE April 5
Ohio and Michigan High School Seniors – please see packet for majors and participating schools that student must be entering. DEADLINE April 6
Perry County Chamber of Commerce $1000 – three high school courses that relate to computers, business, technology. Pursuing a degree in computers, business, and/or technology. One page typed paper on the essay topic. Letter of recommendation DEADLINE: April 9
MIBA Investment in the Future Scholarship Must attend college and enroll in one of the following fields of study; mechanical, electrical, chemical, industrial engineering, or a manufacturing related field of study. Must complete the application with high school transcript, typed essay. An interview will be scheduled and conducted after application. DEADLINE April 10
Bill Apger Memorial Scholarship $1,000 – Senior student at CHS who is a member of the band, drama club, or CHS National Honor Society. Must be accepted to a two or four year college. One hundred fifty word typed essay, letter of college acceptance of which student will attend, letter of recommendation from band director, drama club director, or NHS advisor. DEADLINE April 10
Perry County Community Club $500 – reside in Perry County and attend a Perry County High School, essay, letter of recommendation. DEADLINE April 15
John Wells Memorial Scholarship $1,000 – complete the application form, complete secondary education during the 2017-2018 school year. Provide letter of recommendation from a softball coach and one other adult who is not a relative. DEADLINE April 15
Crooksville Fallen Firefighter’s Scholarship $500 – minimum 2.5 GPA, two or four year college pursuing a public service field, two letters of recommendation (one from high school teacher and one from a community member). Five hundred to 1,000 word essay on what public service field you are pursuing and why? DEADLINE April 15
Andy Ratliff Memorial Track/Music $500 – attend CHS and be a graduating senior; student needs to have participated in track and/or band/choir DEADLINE April 15
Shrivers Pharmacies Scholarship $750 Pharmacy/$250 Allied Medical Pharmacy – Fill out application and complete an essay why you feel you are the best choice for this scholarship. DEADLINE April 15
Wichert Insurance Agency Scholarship $300 – must attend a career, technical, or 4 year college. Write a paragraph describing need of this scholarship. One scholarship will be given to each Perry County School. DEADLINE April 16
Sharon Watson Memorial Scholarship $1,000 – three reference letters, written explanation of accomplishments and rationale for procuring the scholarship. Students entering the education field will be given special consideration but not a prerequisite. DEADLINE April 17
The Dave Nash/John Neff Memorial Golf Scholarship – $1,000 – Must have lettered in varsity golf, have a comulative GPA of 2.75 or higher DEADLINE April 17