Post by Richard Tobin Post by email@example.com
How did something associated with removing or shaving male hair and
beard come to dennote a young child, infant or toddler?
It doesn't. It means a youth who has only recently started to shave.
Through exaggeration and humour it may sometimes be applied to someone
Possibly. The literal sense you propose for an origin seems plausible, but
I'm not sure it's actually attested. What we do have from quite early
2a. One who pillages or plunders; an extortioner.
1534 R. Whittington tr. Cicero Thre Bks. Tullyes Offyces iii. sig. T.2
I woll not speke of murderers,..theues, pollers & shauers in this place.
1652 J. Wright tr. J.-P. Camus Nature's Paradox vi. 111 This bred a suspition..that they were some cunning Shavers that intended to surprise them.
1699 B. E. New Dict. Canting Crew Shaver, a Cunning Shaver, a subtil,
This seems to lead via generalization to:
3.a. = ‘Fellow’, ‘chap’; also, a humorous fellow, joker, wag.
1592 Marlowe Jew of Malta ii. iii. E Itha... I can cut and shaue.
Bar. Let me see, sirra, are you not an old shauer? Ith. Alas, Sir,
I am a very youth.
Although it co-occurs with "young" and "old" in several of the early
quotes, it does not seem to carry the meaning of youth by itself until
1854 ‘M. Harland’ Alone ix I have known him since I was a shaver.