Antedating the earliest known usage of a word has the potential to reconfigure our understanding of its origins and relationship to morphologically related words, as well as its place in the cultural moment where it emerged. In this paper we explore the value of antedating by comparing the history of the lexeme Mormon (and related terms) as it is first attested in the Oxford English Dictionary to the account suggested by our own work on the history of Mormon (noun and adjective), Mormonism, Mormonite, and Mormon Bible. We suggest that the name Mormon, with its non-transparent reference for most early nineteenth-century speakers, expands from the title Book of Mormon to refer to the Mormon phenomenon in general, and is then derived morphologically to Mormonism and Mormonite. Meanwhile, the nickname Mormon Bible (for the Book of Mormon) sets up Mormon to shift into adjectival usage, and thence to its use as a noun. This more nuanced assessment of these words' earliest histories allows us a richer perspective on the way that these elements of the language have intersected with American history and culture.


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pp. 43-57
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