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PostENGLISH LANGUAGE: Beat Cal, Rooting for Stanford (John Eipper, USA, 05/11/05 7:18 am)
ENGLISH? Beat Cal, Rooting for Stanford.? I asked: "How did that strange Americanism "to root for" arise? Webster says: "to dig or turn up with the snout, as a pig".? Ed Jajko comments: Webster is too limited.? The on-line OED gives this secondary definition for the verb "root": RH: Webster gives the secondary meaning, bur with scant explanation. Ed. quotes the Oxford English Dictionary: d. colloq. (orig. U.S. slang) To cheer for a (baseball, etc.) team. Also transf., to be active for a person or thing by giving support, encouragement, or applause. Also without const.
1889 N.Y. Semi-Weekly Tribune 5 Nov. 5/4 Murphy has done little but ?root? for the Giants this year. 1895 in Funk's Standard Dict. 1895 J. S. WOOD Yale Yarns 152 We rooted hard, too, and did a lot of shouting and yelling. 1897 FLANDRAU Harvard Episodes 164 The fellows who had promised to vote for Wolcott..were beginning now to ?root? for him vigorously. 1922 S. LEWIS Babbitt v. 66 Zilla keeps rooting for a nice expensive vacation. 1943 Crisis July 201/3 The papers of Los Angeles crowed... They rooted and cheered. 1951 Sport 30 Mar.-5 Apr. 3/1 If the rules of the tournament made it possible for Stan to be transferred to Newcastle tomorrow, then the whole country would be rooting for the ?Magpies? on April 28th. 1951 in M. McLuhan Mech. Bride (1967) 8/1 He rooted fiercely for the underdog, perhaps because he was so much the underdog himself. 1959 N. MAILER Advts. for Myself (1961) 400 If he dares not to castrate his hatred of society..then I would have to root for him because he may have been born to write a great novel. 1967 Boston Sunday Herald Mag. 9 Apr. 4/3 You'll find it becomes a whole different game from just sitting in your armchair, rooting blindly. 1971 A. BURGESS MF xii. 140 A popcorn-eating audience roots for two youths fighting a huge engulfing python. 1976 A. MILLER Inside Outside vii. 81, I..wound up in front of the Visiting Committee with the Governor rooting for me.
"Root" seems to have its source in "wroot" with an alternative form "rout."? The OED has an informative and suggestive definition of "rout":
b. A number of animals going together; a pack, flock, herd, etc. Now rare.
? c1275 LAY. 2598 ar he balu funde vppen one route of wolues awedde. ?a1366 CHAUCER Rom. Rose 909 Nyghtyngales a full grete Route, That flyen ouer his heed aboute. 1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. Prol. 146 Wi at ran ere a route of ratones at ones. c1440 Pallad. on Husb. I. 851 Al the route [of snails, etc.] A trayne of chalk or askis holdith oute. 1486 Bk. St. Albans eij, My chylde, callith..a Rowte of Wolues where thay passin inne. 1576 TURBERV. Venerie 100 Of fallow beasts the company is called an heard, and of blacke beasts it is called a rout, or a Sounder. 1598 J. MANWOOD Lawes Forest iv. (1615) 45 Foresters and good woodmen do use to say..A rout of Wolfes. 1674 J. JOSSELYN Two Voy. 67 They commonly go in routs, a rout of wolves is 12 or more. a1732 GAY Fables II. ii, Around him throng the feather'd rout. 1774 J. BRYANT Mythol. II. 365 Nothing can represent more happily..the rout of animals first bursting from their place of confinement. 1821 CLARE Vill. Minstr. I. 89 Noisy bark of shepherds' dogs, The restless routs of sheep to stop.
This may explain the origins of "to root for," although granted "rout" seems to rhyme with "shout" rather than "root" (which may not matter, since "route," i.e. road or direction, has both pronunciations).
RH: A rout of wolves and football fans, a pride of lions, a flock of sheep or birds, a herd of cattle or humans. Why don't horses come in herds? Does one speak of a rout of 'politicians or a pride of them?
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