colder than a witch's tit

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Apr 6 01:53:57 UTC 2005

>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.

"boner" was the first work I recall for "erection", at least in
colloquial speech, and that would have been maybe 1957 or '58.
Curiously, though, HDAS doesn't have a cite before Richard FariƱa's
1966 novel _Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me_, a wonderful
book, and it's too bad the author crashed out on his motorcycle
during the publication party, and that Mimi became so sad, but I'm
sure there are antedates around somewhere.

>It should be older, however, since recent unpublished evidence
>traces the syn. ithyphallic "bone" back to around 1900.

Seems likely.  [First published cite in HDAS, under _bone_, n., 3a is 1916.]

>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"
I think I could, and others; it doesn't seem that taboo to me, but
more in the category of "jackass", "cocktail", "baiser la main",
etc., where the context keeps the inappropriate red light from
lighting up.  "bone" as a transitive verb (or "boner") is one thing,
"bone up on" is something else, and well-established enough to retain
its innocence.  (YMMV, of course.)  More so than with "pull a boner",
for me, given the relative ease of reinterpretation of the two


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