Gerald Cohen: word whiz

Gerald Cohen, a professor of foreign languages, is a word sleuth who has dug up the origins of terms like jazz, shyster and the Big Apple, a nickname applied to New York City. He’s also famous for discovering the origins of hot dog.

“The term was based on the popular 19th-century belief that dog meat could turn up in sausages,” he says, “and this belief had a basis in fact. … Some butchers even hired dog killers — young toughs armed with a club who would bash any poor dog they came across and then sell the carcass to the butcher.”

Last June, Cohen received a lifetime achievement award from the Dictionary Society of North America. It’s an honor he’s certain to relish.

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