Obscurity of the Day: Flivvers

Etymologically speaking, Flivvers by Jack Callahan is interesting. My understanding, and most dictionaries back me up on this, is that a flivver is a cheap and unreliable automobile. However, if I go to the Oxford English Dictionary they list a second definition, saying that it can also refer to “a person who has a damaging or deleterious influence.” However, the examples they cite refer to “human flivvers”, obviously an attempt to evoke the idea of a person who is like a rattletrap car. Not so much a secondary definition as a simile, methinks.

Seems to me that Jack Callahan in this series is making a concerted attempt at expanding the definition to include people who are basically well-rounded but have a blind spot. Jack’s attempt at contributing to the English language didn’t take hold but he gets points for trying.

Flivvers was one of Callahan’s weekday strips for the New York Evening World. It ran from September 21 1916 to February 2 1917.

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