Indian giver

Have you ever wondered where phrases came from? I have, as mentioned in earlier posts, been researching and recording this information for the past two years and have published two books on my findings. But sometime in 2013 I plan to publish a definitive work from this indepth research. One recent listing for the new book hit me as something many might want to know now, so I’m using it in today’s post. It’s ‘Indian giver.’ Here’s what I learned:

Indian giver

The figurative definition is a person who gives something then takes it back. The term evolved from ‘Indian gift’ which was first coined by Massachusetts Loyalist politician, Thomas Hutchinson, in 1765 during American colonization when Natives gave gifts to the white Europeans in anticipation of receiving a gift in return.

In 1848 historian and linguist John Russell Bartlett published his Dictionary of Americanisms which first cited the phrase ‘Indian giver’:

“INDIAN GIVER. When an Indian gives anything, he expects an equivalent in return, or that the same thing may be given back to him. This term is applied by children in New York and the vicinity to a child who, after having given away a thing, wishes to have it back again.”

Note the figurative application already existed by 1848. It is likely that some Europeans accepted gifts from Natives who expected something in trade, and when nothing was received, demanded the return of the gift. 

But many hundred other cliches, idioms, and catch phrases are in my first two volumes: On the Origin of the Cliches and Evolution of Idioms, and On the Origin of the Cliches. All New Book II. Hope you get them either in paperback or on Kindle ebook format.

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