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Aug 13, 2020
This week’s theme
Characters related to slavery who have become words in the English language

This week’s words
Jim Crow
Simon Legree
Uncle Tom
topsy
Aunt Tom

topsy
Topsy & Eva
Illustration: Louise Corbaux

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

topsy

PRONUNCIATION:
(TOP-see)

MEANING:
noun: Something growing without intention or direction.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Topsy, a young enslaved girl, in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Earliest documented use: 1885.

NOTES:
Topsy, a young girl, is purchased by the slaveholder Augustine and she becomes friends with his daughter Eva. When Eva asks Topsy who made her, she replies, “Nobody, as I knows on. I s’pect I growed. Don’t think nobody never made me.” The cute reply became popular in the English language to refer to an unplanned or an enormous growth.

USAGE:
“The securities lending business had grown like topsy without any proper supervision, ballooning to as much as $2 billion.”
Ben Butler; Fast Cars, Big Houses, Hot Money; The Australian (Canberra); Sep 13, 2018.

“But [Channel 4 is] also that uniquely British thing: a hodge podge that works, an institution you couldn’t invent because, somehow, it’s just grown. Topsy TV.”
Peter Preston; If Channel 4 Didn’t Exist, You Couldn’t Invent It; The Independent (London, UK); May 10, 2016.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Drama is life with the dull bits cut out. -Alfred Hitchcock, film-maker (13 Aug 1899-1980)

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