Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spook the Spook

Where did the word 'spook' come from?  I didn't realize it is an Americanism. 

1795-1805, Americanism; < Dutch; cognate with German Spuk 
1801, from Dutch spook, from Middle Dutch spoon "spook, ghost," from a common Germanic source (cf.German Spuk "ghost, apparition," Middle Low Germanspok "spook,"  Swedish spok "scarecrow," Norwegianspjok "ghost, specter," Danish spøg "joke"), of unknown origin. Possible outside connections include Lettish spigana "dragon, witch," spiganis "will o' the wisp," Lithuanian spingu, spingeti "to shine," OldPrussian spanksti  "spark." 

Meaning "undercover agent" is attested from 1942.The derogatory racial sense of  "black person" is attested from 1940s, perhaps from notion of dark skin being difficult to see at night. Black pilots trained atTuskegee Institute during World War II called themselves the Spookwaffe.
What interesting meanings it has: 1. Informal. a ghost; specter.
2. Slang. a ghostwriter.
3. Slang. an eccentric person.
4. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. acontemptuous term used to refer to a blackperson.
5. Slang. an espionage agent; spy.
verb (used with object)
6. to haunt; inhabit or appear in or to as a ghost orspecter.
7. Informal. to frighten; scare.
verb (used without object)
8. Informal. to become frightened or scared:  The fish spooked at any disturbance in the pool.

So when we find people dressed in spy costumes today (we'll stick with the politically correct slangs) - we can spook a spook.

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