"play Copenhagen"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Jul 6 13:18:08 UTC 2006

Jonathan, what sense of "play" are you referring
to?  I only have OED2,  for which sense 31.a "To
represent in mimic action; to perform as a
spectacle upon the stage, etc.; to act (a
pageant, drama, etc.)" has cites from a1380, and
pretty plain for 1589 "The old comedies were
plaid in the broad streets vpon wagons or carts
vncouered." and 1602 Hamlet "The whil'st this Play is Playing."

31.c is 1896 in OED2, but it seems narrower,
being restricted to a play:  "To perform a play
or the like in (a specified town, theatre, etc.);
to appear as a performer or entertainer at (a
particular place)."  (Although I'm not clear what
the difference is between a "drama" and a "play",
and Shakespeare used "play" in the Hamlet quote.)

Mentioning Shakespeare suggests another WAG
(which occurred to me even before I saw the
cite):  "emoting like an actor in the play
Hamlet"?  If one takes "scream on the staircase"
as being hysterical rather than singing
badly.  But then I suppose the expression would
have been "playing Elsinore" . . .


At 7/6/2006 08:50 AM, you wrote:
>That didn't occur to me, but the primary OED ex.
>of the relevant sense (def. 30) doesn't appear till 1886.
>   Nor does the context of "play Copenhagen"
> lend much support to that interpretation.
>   JL
>Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the
> mail header -----------------------
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: Stephen Goranson
>Subject: Re: "play Copenhagen"
>Quoting Jonathan Lighter :
> > "Copenhagen" isn't in OED. The meaning is not clear.
> >
> > 1846 _Knickerbocker_ XLVII 405: Elly is a real blonde beauty: and
> > neither of them seem [sic] likely to scream on the stair-case, or
> > play Copenhagen.
> >
> > JL
>Just guessing, but wouldn't "play Copenhagen" mean sing there in
>concert rather
>than play a game named Copenhagen?
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