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  • Fiona Grant

    Fiona Grant March 7, 2006, 7:57 p.m. (Message 44533)

    RE: swotting, swatting not just dances

    Becky writes about swotting and its misuse as a word. I'm not sure I follow
    her down the "wrong" track. 
    Most people I know have at one time or another swotted up on dances, and
    most appropriately given the word's origin!
    From the O.E.D.:
    intr. To work hard at one's studies; to ‘bone up’. Also trans., to ‘get up’,
    ‘mug up’ (a subject); more rarely, without up. 
    [Dialectal variant of SWEAT n.
    According to a contributor to N. & Q. 1st Ser. I. 369/2, the term originated
    at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in the use on one occasion of the
    expression ‘It mades one swot’ (= sweat) by the Scotch professor of
    mathematics, William Wallace.] 
    1860 Slang Dict. (ed. 2), Swot, work hard for an examination, to be
    diligent in one's studies. Army. 1866 [see prec. 2]. 1899 E. PHILLPOTTS
    Human Boy 120 He was swatting like anything in play-hours for a special Old
    Testament history prize. 1901 Chambers's Jrnl. July 445/2 Dick was
    ‘swotting’ blue china for all he was worth, at the British Museum and
    elsewhere. 1908 Athenæum 25 July 93/2 It is the case that boys deliberately
    set themselves to ‘slack’ or ‘swot’ for longer or shorter periods. 1913
    Wireless World I. 37/2 There will be a chance for fellows like me, who have
    been swatting up Fleming's books. 1931 R. CAMPBELL Georgiad i. 18 All
    who..of despair have baulked the yawning precipice By swotting up his
    melancholy recipes For ‘happiness’. 1955 Times 26 May 13/2 Mr. Forester must
    have ‘swotted up’ the subject of wartime Atlantic convoys just as he
    ‘swotted up’ the subject of the Navy in Nelson's time. 1967 K. GILES Death
    in Diamonds vi. 114 Been swatting the maps, I see. 1977 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 23
    June 8/2 Our culture hound..swots up in the Encyclopedia before
    distinguished guests arrive.
    Taken from our trusty friend, the Oxford English Dictionary. 
    Fyi and edification. Was first edited by a Scot, James Murray 
    More details: 
    Still being pedantic in Bristol, UK. 

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