"rush the can"

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon Jun 18 16:26:27 UTC 2001

     A colleague forwarded Ms. Anderson's  ARCHIVES query about "rush
the can" to me. The expression means "to send out for beer" or "go
oneself to drink beer." The original expression was apparently "to
rush the growler" (synonymous with "chase the duck.") The imagery was
a hunter sending his dog (the growler) to fetch a shot-down
duck--extended to sending a boy to a local beer establishment to come
back with a pail of beer. That sending of a boy to fetch beer was
"rushing the growler," (i.e. causing the boy to rush; not rushing him
as one would rush the quarterback).
     Here is a quote from the NYC newspaper _The World_, June 5, 1898,
p.9, col. 6, re James Dwyer, a member of the Hook gang: "...He was an
adept a coaxing money out of a turnip--could stand up a 'drunk' on a
dark night with the best of them--and when it came to 'rushing the
can' there was no man on 'de Hook' who could rush it oftener or drink
deeper or fight hard then he."
      Further detail may be found in the following item: Barry Popik
and Gerald Cohen,"_Rush the Growler_: Towards a Compilation of
Treatments On This Expression," pp.1-20. in _Studies in Slang, VI_,
by Gerald Leonard Cohen and Barry A. Popik, Frankfurt am Main: Peter
Lang. 1999.
       On a general note, for word meanings/origins/etc. you might
wish to include the American Dialect Society discussion group
(ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU) in your cc. list.

--Gerald Cohen
   Professor of Foreign Languages
   (Research specialty: Etymology)
   Member, American Dialect Society

>  > -----Original Message-----
>  > From: Anderson, Ruth [mailto:ruth.anderson at MNHS.ORG]
>>  Sent: Monday, June 18, 2001 10:14 AM
>>  Subject: rushing the can
>  >
>>Does anyone know the meaning of "rushing the can"?  A
>  > researcher at the
>>  Minnesota Historical Society Library has found the term in
>>  court records and
>>  newspaper articles from ca. 1900.  "Rushing the can" is not
>  > listed in any of
>  > the slang dictionaries in the library and no one on the
>  > reference staff is
>>  familiar with the term.  Any ideas?
>>  Thanks.
>>  Ruth Bauer Anderson
>>  Reference-Minnesota Historical Society
>>  345 Kellogg Blvd. West
>>  St. Paul, Mn 55102-1906
>>  (651)297-7432
>>  Email: ruth.anderson at mnhs.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list