What’s the good word? 
Posted: 27 June 2013 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  3101
Joined  2007-01-30

As in the American greeting. None of the OED definitions for good word fit (good, adj, adv. and n., 7 d),

d. good word: a friendly, favourable, or laudatory utterance; something said on behalf of or in commendation of a person or thing. to give (one) a good word: to speak well of. to say or speak a good word for : (spec.) to recommend to the favour of another. †In pl. also (a) used ellipt. in deprecation of angry or violent speech (see A. 7b); (b) in bad sense = fair words n. at fair adj. and n.2 Special uses 2.

Any indication in the specialist dics of age?

Posted: 27 June 2013 04:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  6483
Joined  2007-01-03

The word is in the sense of news, tiding, gossip, rumor.

Partridge’s Dictionary of Catch Phrases has it, giving a citation from John Kendrick Bangs’s 1913 A Line of Cheer For Each Day o’ the Year, in the entry for 23 April:

What’s the good word?
Now that’s a phrase I truly love to hear,
And when ‘tis heard,
I always smile and promptly answer “CHEER!”
It holds more warmth and genial glow
Than any other word I know.

From this we can deduce that the phrase was fairly common in 1913 and people were asking the same questions about it.

I also found this in an article titled “Broad Street Gossip” in The Wall Street Journal, 24 Nov 1914, 2, that shows the “news” meaning of word:

A banker who has taken a prominent part in solving the difficulties brought about by the European war was met by another of about equal prominence late on Friday afternoon and was asked: “What is the good word?” His reply was that the outlook for the next day’s weather was excellent, and it brought the immediate rejoinder: “That is fine; I am going too.” Each had in mind the Yale-Harvard football game, which both regarded as the most important thing the in prospect.

Posted: 27 June 2013 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  409
Joined  2007-02-13

Some earthy American males will reply “Legs; spread the good word”.