"The Buck Stops Here" (ca. 1930)

Sam Clements SClements at NEO.RR.COM
Sat Apr 23 11:33:35 UTC 2005

Although, Jon Lighter points out in HDAS that Twain was NOT using it in a
poker story at the time(1872).

Sam Clements

----- Original Message -----
From: "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2005 3:18 AM
Subject: Re: "The Buck Stops Here" (ca. 1930)

> >Can it be confirmed that both this and "passing the buck" are
>>transfers from poker?  Please tell me that this isn't an
>>etymythology; we all have to cling to *some*thing!
> In this case the etymology story looks likely IMHO. "Pass the buck" had
> the
> alternatives "shove the buck", "push the buck". In the old days it was
> often "ante and pass the buck"; this is the form of the expression in the
> earliest example I've found (Mark Twain, 1872), and it's kind of hard to
> suppose that this is not poker-related: <<"I reckon I can't call that
> hand.
> Ante and pass the buck.">>. "Pass the buck" meant "pass the deal",
> apparently. The details are not known to me, but in some styles of poker
> the dealer antes for everybody, and it may be that if he didn't want to
> deal he could pass the deal but had to ante anyway. OTOH, in conventional
> "jackpots" and similar games, IIRC, it often happens that no player opens
> (*presumably* nobody having jacks or better), in which case there is
> another ante and a new deal (!), typically dealt by the next person, so
> "ante and pass the buck" might originally have been an expected event
> rather than an instance of unusual deference or pusillanimity.
> -- Doug Wilson

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