Monday, August 2, 2010

Polysemy Want a Cracker

As mentioned in a previous post about polysemy, the reference is to a single word with different senses of the same basic meaning. Polysemes are also distinguished from homonyms because they are etymologically related.

Following is a list of senses for the definition of the word "cracker" from the Oxford English Dictionary (see 8. a. and 9. a.):

One who or that which cracks (in any of the senses of the vb.).
1. gen.
2. esp. A boaster, braggart; hence, a liar.
3. familiar or colloq. A lie.
4. U.S. a. A contemptuous name given in southern States of N. America to the ‘poor whites’; whence, familiarly, to the native whites of Georgia and Florida. Also attrib. According to some, short for CORN CRACKER; but early quots. leave this doubtful.
b. attrib.; the Cracker State, Georgia.
5. A local name for the Pintail Duck (Dafila acuta), and the Corn-crake (Crex pratensis).
6. a. A kind of firework which explodes with a sharp report or a succession of sharp reports.
b. (In full cracker bon-bon.) A bon-bon, or small parcel of sweets, etc., containing a fulminant, which explodes when pulled sharply at both ends. attrib., as cracker-motto, -paper, -poetry, -rhyme.
c. An attachment to the end of a whip-lash by which a cracking sound can be produced. U.S., Austral. and N.Z.
7. A pistol. Obs. slang. (Cf. BARKER 4.)
8. a. An instrument for cracking or crushing something; a crusher; spec. in pl. nut-crackers.
b. humorously (in pl.). The teeth.
c. A cracking plant (see CRACK v. 23).
9. a. A thin hard biscuit. (Now chiefly in U.S.)
b. attrib. and Comb., as cracker-bag, -peddler; cracker-hash, a sailors' hash of biscuits and meat; so cracker-stew.
10. pl. (S. Africa). (See quot.)
11. slang. a. A ‘cracking’ or ‘rattling’ pace.
b. A break-down, a smash: cf. CRACK v. 15.
c. A pound(-note). Austral. and N.Z. slang.
Hence (nonce-wds.) cracker v. trans., to pelt with crackers. crackeress, a female cracker. crackery, crackers collectively.

Image from A Way with Words

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