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Abstract

The etymological source and history of English phon(e)y‘fake, sham, counterfeit’ have been the subject of speculation and disagreement for over 100 years, and are still problematic. In the present paper, I outline the treatment of phon(e)y in the three editions of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as well as in more specialised dictionaries, and in the relevant scholarly and popular literature; where appropriate, I make a careful examination of cited documents in the original. I go on to make a critical analysis of all these, adduce new evidence, and advance a coherent theory to account for the data, including heretofore unexplained phonological aspects.