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The OED has made a public appeal for help in tracing the history of some English words, including:

DIY

abbreviation earlier than 1955

DIY is of course an abbreviation of do it yourself, and both terms refer to the carrying out of a task by oneself, especially around the home. The entries for these terms are currently being revised by OED editors. The earliest use of do it yourself as a phrase found so far dates from the nineteenth century (without the later associations with home improvement):

1845 Richard H. Barham Ingoldsby Legends (1905) 288 If it’s business of consequence, Do it yourself!

By 1910, the phrase being used as an adjective:

1910 Popular Science Monthly May 493 At the Boston Tech a method has been in vogue for long that is there deemed highly satisfactory—it is known as the ‘do-it-yourself method’.

But our evidence for the initialism DIY currently goes back only as far as 1955:

1955 Titusville (Pa.) Herald 22 July 8/4 (advt.) DIY means ‘Do It Yourself’ and you can.

1955 Practical Householder Dec. 203/1 A central pool such as a ‘D.I.Y. Club’ from which..tools can be hired is the obvious advantage.

We suspect that earlier evidence for DIY may exist. Can you beat our DIY efforts?

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1 Answer 1

I've found one antedating of some five or six months, and another from the previous year.


Popular Science magazine (Feb 1955 - Vol. 166: No. 2 - Page 283) has a cut-out-and-post coupon has this address:

McCall's DO-IT-YOURSELF PATTERNS
DEPT. DIY • DAYTON 1, OHIO

McCall's DO-IT-YOURSELF PATTERNS DEPT. DIY • DAYTON 1, OHIO


And better, from a 1954 advert.

The Argus newspaper (Melbourne, Victoria: 1848 - 1956) Friday 5 November 1954 p. 9 advertising:

One of the most useful tools now helping to popularise "D.-I.-Y." is the Black & Decker All Purpose Unit, shown at right.

One of the most useful tools now helping to popularise "D.-I.-Y." is the Black & Decker All Purpose Unit, shown at right.


Can anyone else find something earlier?

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