Origin of "babysitting"

Posted by Masakim on March 01, 2003

In Reply to: Origin of "babysitting" posted by R. Berg on March 01, 2003

: : Does anybody know who coined the term "babysit" or "babysitting?" or how it came to be, as a word/phrase?

: The absence of these forms from the first edition of (and supplements to) the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a 20th-century origin. The following, from H. L. Mencken, "The American Language" (abridged ed., 1963; original copyrights 1919, 1921, 1923), suggests an American one:

: "There is a much greater percentage of humorous shortenings among verbs," says Elizabeth Wittman, "than among other parts of speech. Especially is this true of verbs shortened from nouns and adjectives by subtracting what looks like a derivative suffix . . . Many clipped verbs have noun parallels, while some are simply clipped nouns used as verbs." Of these are to stenog, to chiropract, to taxpay, to liase, to ghost-write, to baby-sit, to brainwash, to bookkeep, to collab and to best-sell. Some verbs of this class are already of respectable antiquity [sec. "Verbs" in chap. "The Language Today"].

baby-sitter n someone who looks after a child when its parents are out, especially in the evening. Originally US. The derived verb _baby-sit_ is first recorded in 1947. By the 1960s _sit_ was being used on its own with the same meanig, and later in the century it began to attach itself to othe objects of guardianship (mainly in _house-sit_).
1937 C.R. Walker: There are two high-school girls in the neighborhood who hire out for twenty-five cents an evening as 'baby-sitters' when the family wants to go the movies.
1947 [_The Matrix_, September] in _American Speech_ : Offer to 'baby-sit' with her little boy.
1966 John Gloag: He wondered if Willy would be able to get Mrs Hillman in to sit. Friday was a bad night.