English, Department of


Date of this Version



Language, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Jun., 1927), pp. 96-99


Copyright 1927 Linguistic Society of America. Used by permission.


Professor G. P. Krapp makes an attractive case for his derivation of darn, darned in the brief essay on this word in his recent The English Language in America. He discards the usual explanation that darn is a variant or minced form of damn, and believes that, although it now stands in intimate relation to damn, it had an independent origin. He takes as his starting point the Old English adjective dierne, 'secret,' Middle English derne, Elizabethan dern, and assumes a transition from a descriptive adjective or adverb to an imprecation. The adjective took on, he thinks, the form of a participial adjective, and thence developed verbal usage. Our occasional mild dern would then represent a more basic form than the commoner darn. The earliest records of darn, darnation entered by lexicographers come from New England, and Dr. Krapp thinks that these forms are of New England Puritan origin.