http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/icons/lingua-franca-nameplate.pngBy Allan Metcalf. Remember 1849? Those were the great days of the California Gold Rush. Hundreds of thousands dropped everything to grab gold from the foothills near Sutter’s Fort. In that heady time, you didn’t need lots of equipment—perhaps just a pan to sift riverbed gravel for nuggets. Well, it’s 1849 all over again. Not in gold mining, which now generally requires sophisticated technology, but in etymology, the study of word origins. Vast new fields of data have been opened and made accessible, so it’s easier than ever to find an earlier instance of a word or phrase not yet recorded in any dictionary. Last week I gave an example of antedating, the Yale librarian Fred Shapiro’s discovery of an 1886 hot dog in a Nashville newspaper, some six years earlier than any previously discovered use of that now-familiar name for a sausage in a bun. Read more...