colder than a witch's tit

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Sat Apr 2 03:23:25 UTC 2005

On Apr 1, 2005, at 3:52 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: colder than a witch's tit
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> The perfectly chaste "boner" in "pull a boner" is from "bonehead
> play," so far as anybody can tell.  HDAS isn't at hand, but my
> recollection of the time frame for the other "boner" matches yours.
> It should be older, however, since recent unpublished evidence traces
> the syn. ithyphallic "bone" back to around 1900.
> BTW, the student phrase "to bone up on" should soon be heading for the
> Last Round-Up, because it now sounds weirdly sexual.  Who today, with
> a straight face, could say, "I'm going to bone up on economics" ?
> JL

Thanks for the info, Jon. And I agree that "boner" in the anatomical
sense is probably way older than 1969, because of the circumstances
under which I first heard it. I was dating a divorcee who was the
mother of two boys who were, at the time, 6 and 4. One evening, she put
the boys into the tub and came back to the living room to continue our
chat. A few minutes later, the boys burst out of the bathroom shouting,
"Mommy, look! We got boners!" And, indeed, they had. It follows that
"boner" must have been around for quite a while, if little kids were
already familiar with both the term and its meaning by 1969. And the
fact that *I* hadn't heard it before was just one of those things.

On another occasion, a friend's ten-year-old twin daughters asked him
what an "erection" was. Before he had a chance to figure out what to
tell them, his thirteen-year-old son said, "Oh, Dad, they know what
that is! They just don't know that word!" So my friend asked, "Well,
what word do they know?" So, the son turned to the girls and said,
"Twins, 'erection' is just another word for 'boner.'" My old buddy to
this day has been afraid to ask the girls - well, they're women around
forty, nowadays - how they came to be familiar with "boner" at such a
tender age.


> Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Wilson Gray
> Subject: Re: colder than a witch's tit
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> On Apr 1, 2005, at 1:45 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:
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>> Sender: American Dialect Society
>> Poster: "Mark A. Mandel"
>> Subject: Re: colder than a witch's tit
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>> -
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>> dInIs contributes:
>> Colder'n a witch's tit in a brass bra on a frosty Halloween
>> and
>> Colder'n a well-digger's ass in the Klondike
>> <<<
>> My equal time version is "colder than a warlock's wand".
>> -- Mark
>> [This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]
> I first heard this one when I was grad student. I found it totally
> apropos at the time and I still like it:
> "Colder than a landlord's heart."
> FWIW, I've also heard boners referred to "as harder than a landlord's
> heart."
> Speaking of "boners," what's up with the phrase, "pull a boner"? I've
> known this phrase with the meaning, "make an egregious error" for as
> far back as I can remember. But it wasn't till 1969 that I first heard
> the term "boner" used outside of "pull a ..." as an independent word
> and in its ithyphallic sense. OTOH, I've been familiar with the phrase,
> "on the bone," with the meaning "ithyphallic" since I was in grade
> school, i.e. pre-1950.
> BTW, the question here is whether there's any connection between these
> two boners.
> -Wilson Gray
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