Shellac (v.) & spit-coat

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Nov 14 09:56:42 UTC 2002

>(#1)  "[give x a good shellacking]"
>  which means in comon parlance to either ... defeat decisively, or ... to
> batter ....

There is also "shellacked" = "intoxicated". (Ingestion of shellac by
alcoholics is not unknown, but I doubt its relevance.)

>The two possible sources that might make sense for the slang
>usage is either (a)  when one coats something with shellac, it's
>a complete covering, so by extension from the completeness
>componnet we'd get 'to completely' do something, or (b) a dark
>red dye is made from shellac, and beating someone physically
>bruises them.

I find (a) conceivable, (b) unlikely.

Here are my guesses; I find any of them plausible, or a combination.

(1) Derivative of German "schlagen" (= "strike") or equivalent. Cf.
supposed etymology of "schlock" (from Yiddish). Cf. "Our team really got
clobbered", "I really got hammered on schnapps last night", "They really
gave him a pounding".

(2) Onomatopoeic (cf. "smack", "whack", etc.).

(3) [The books seem to favor this one] Shellacking being the last step in
finishing something; thus something shellacked is something completed,
something which has been "finished off".

-- Doug Wilson

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