Query: Meaning of 1933 abbreviation (slang) T.L.(from Gerald Cohen)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Apr 2 22:30:46 UTC 2006

I don't know if Jesse learned that from me, but he could have.  HDAS files have cites on "T.L." from 1923 to 1978, the last from an author whose youth was in the 1920s.

  OED doesn't have "T.L.," but it takes "trade-last" back to 1891.  My grandmother was familiar with both forms.

  Presumably pre-1920's T.L.'s are now discoverable.


Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Jesse Sheidlower
Subject: Re: Query: Meaning of 1933 abbreviation (slang) T.L.(from Gerald

On Sat, Apr 01, 2006 at 10:45:23PM -0500, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote,
on behalf of Gerald Cohen:

> Query: Would anyone have any idea what "t.l." (in capitals it would be
> T.L.) means in the following following context (from Nathanel West, Miss
> Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust' copyrighted 1933; later edition: p. 148):
> '...Faye was coming back. Homer saw that Tod was going to speak to her
> about Earle and the Mexican and signaled desperately for him not to do it. She,
> however, caught at it and was curious.
> "What have you guys been chinning about?"
> "You, darling," Tod said, "Homer has a t.l.for you.
> "Tell me, Homer."
> "No, first you tell me one."
> "Well, the man I just danced with asked me if you were a movie big shot."
> Tod saw that Homer was unable to think of a return compliment so he spoke
> for him.
> "I said you were the most beautiful girl in the place." ....'
> ----- The reference seems to be to a compliment. But how would that derive
> from T.L.? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

It's from "trade last", originally in reference to a compliment
given to a person in return for a compliment from that person,
but used broadly of any compliment, or more narrowly of a compliment
given through an intermediary.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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