"son of a gun"
gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon Jan 22 02:23:39 UTC 2001
Whoops. Fred Shapiro correctly points to a chronological
discrepancy in what I said about "gun" in "son of a gun" deriving
from British cant "gun" (thief).
A check of Eric Partridge's _A Dictionary of the Underworld_ shows
that "gun" (thief) is first attested in 1857, too late to appear in
"son of a gun."
I withdraw my suggestion.
>On Sun, 21 Jan 2001, Gerald Cohen wrote:
> > Actually, I believe Cassell (which I do not have before me) is on
>> the right track. "Gun" besides referring to a firearm, was also a
>> cant term for "thief," at least in the 19th century. For example, one
>> can read about "the guns and their molls," i.e., the thieves and
>> their women/wives. And this "gun" is known to derive from Yiddish
>> "gonnof" (thief). Both "gun" (thief) and "gonnof" were present in
>> British cant.
>Then why is "son of a gun" attested 150 years before this usage of "gun"?
>Was English influenced by Yiddish in 1700?
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