OED Appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of ‘cheers’?
Can you help us? OED Appeals is a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English.
Part of the process of revising words and phrases for the OED involves searching for evidence of a word’s first recorded use in English, and for this we need your help.
Can you find earlier examples of usage of the following word? Visit the OED Appeals page to find out more, and to submit any antedating evidence.
With the Christmas season upon us, you may find yourself hearing and saying cheers! more often, whether as a toast before drinking with friends or perhaps in exchange for a gift. The second of these two senses, as an informal way of saying ‘thank you’, is apparently a fairly recent development. While the interjection cheers! seems to have sprung to life during the First World War, as a way of expressing enthusiasm, it wasn’t until 1976 that Times journalist Philip Howard made the observation:
cheers has become the colloquial synonym in British English for ‘thanks’
1976 P. Howard in Times 5 August p.12
But our first real example comes from a special Christmas episode of the much-loved British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses, five years later in 1981:
Del. (Hands Grandad a twenty-pound note) There’s a score for yer, little Christmas pressie. Grandad. Oh cheers Del, very nice of you.
1981 J. Sullivan Only Fools & Horses (1999) I. p. 61
If it was noticed in the Times in 1976, we think it must have been in fairly common use for some time before that. Do you remember using or hearing cheers! to mean ‘thank you’ before the mid-1970s? Can you make all our Christmases come at once and find us an example of real usage from 1976 or before?
Head over the OED Appeals page to submit any evidence. Cheers!