"Brass tacks" (1876) and etymological evidence

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Aug 8 23:44:09 UTC 2005

>Aren't "the short strokes" as likely to be onanistic as copulatory ?  And
>what about a swimmer's strokes within a few feet of the end of the pool
>?  I don't think we know the original reference with any certainty.

Could be boxing, too, etc., etc. But the obvious choice is golf IMHO. Quick
review of the on-line papers shows "short strokes" more often in reference
to golf. The swimming idea looks good in principle too but I don't see it
in the papers at a glance. Sex, painting, boxing, baseball don't look good
to me as origin-candidates because "the short strokes" may or may not occur
in these activities and they may occur at any time, while in golf it is
usual to follow a long drive with short[er] strokes.

I see metaphoric use of "short strokes" opposed to "long strokes" from the
1930's and opposed to "long distance" from the 1920's, at a glance.

>And just what is the naughty origin of "use it or lose it" ?  I mean

I doubt a naughty origin offhand. This natural rhyme has been used in
sermons, etc., since pre-1900. The earliest I see in the on-line papers at
a glance refers to a clam-opening contest in 1885.

-- Doug Wilson

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