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[This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]


The OED defines "wonk" as "a studious or hardworking person".

An article in Sports Illustrated, 17 Dec. 1962, explains that

in Harvard slang, there was a tripartite classification of students

into wonks, preppies, and jocks. I believe that this classification

is in fact the origin of each of the three terms. The earliest

citations in the OED for the three terms are dated, respectively,

1962, 1970, and 1963. I have found an occurrence of "wonk" in

Time in 1954; an occurrence of "preppie" in the Cambridge Review

in 1956; and an occurrence of "jock" in the Harvard Crimson in

1958. In all three instances the context is a Harvard one. (But

Esther Vail recalls: "'jocks'; we called them that at Syracuse

Univ. as early as 1948".)


"Wonk" is said to derive from the word "know" spelled backwards,

but this is not certain. Other suggested origins are the adjective

"wonky" = "weak, shaky", and "wanker" = "masturbator". "Preppy"

comes from "preparatory school". "Jock" (attested from 1922 in the

sense "athletic supporter") comes from "jockstrap", from "jock" =

"penis", from the male name Jack.






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it's 11:15 on a friday night and i'm still in the lab sequencing genes.




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I was just thinking about the term "policy wonk" the other day for no apparent reason. glad somone else is on the same wavelength

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