"sloppy seconds"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon Dec 15 18:37:25 UTC 2008

a while back, but still of linguistic interest.  (pointed out to me,
separately, by Victor Steinbok and Jonathan Falk.)

first the story...

Avery suspended indefinitely for comments related to ex-girlfriends
ESPN.com news services

Updated: December 3, 2008, 6:29 PM ET

[Sean] Avery was punished indefinitely by commissioner Gary Bettman
for using a crude term about his former girlfriends now dating other
hockey players. Bettman acted within hours, in time to keep Avery out
of the Dallas Stars' game against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

Avery's inflammatory line came following a morning skate in Calgary,
Alberta. Reporters were waiting to speak with Avery about disparaging
remarks he'd made last month about Flames star Jarome Iginla when
Avery walked over to the group and asked if there was a camera
present. When told there was, he said, "I'm just going to say one

"I'm really happy to be back in Calgary; I love Canada," the Ontario
native said. "I just want to comment on how it's become like a common
thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I
don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight." He then
walked out of the locker room.

Avery's ex-girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert of the television show
"24" and the movie "Old School," is dating Calgary defenseman Dion
Phaneuf; she had been romantically linked to Mike Komisarek of the
Montreal Canadiens. Avery also dated Rachel Hunter, the former Sports
Illustrated swimsuit cover model and actress who is now the girlfriend
of Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll.


then, of course, the apology (though not directly to the ex-
girlfriends or the players they are now dating)...

Stars LW Avery issues apology for televised comments about ex-
Associated Press

Updated: December 4, 2008, 1:22 AM ET

DALLAS -- Suspended Dallas Stars agitator Sean Avery flew to New York
on Wednesday for a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and
gave a likely sample of what he'll say by apologizing for comments
about his former girlfriends.

"I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the
press yesterday from Calgary," Avery said. "I should not have made
those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate.

"It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now
acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary
embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in
the past [possibly an indirect reference to the other players and
Avery's former girlfriends they dated].

"I apologize for offending the great fans of the NHL, the
commissioner, my teammates, my coaching staff and the Dallas Stars
management and ownership. As many of you know, I like to mix it up on
and off the ice from time to time, but understand that this time I
took it too far."


several things to comment on here, in particular the gravity with
which Avery's crude talk was treated by the NHL brass and the lameness
of the apology (though lame apologies like this one pretty much follow
a script, as we've noted many times on Language Log).  but my main
interest is in Avery's use of "sloppy seconds".

the Urban Dictionary  --



has several entries that get at the core use.  this one (#3) is the
most decorous (it does give a nominal expression a verb definition,
but that's a common feature of UD definitions): "To engage in sexual
intercouse where ejaculation has previously ocurred in the orifice by
another male within a short time frame. The sperm and semem [sic] is
then used as a natural lubrication by the second male. Although the
term may be used to describe both vaginal and anal intercourse with a
male or female, it is traditionally used to describe vaginal

definition #2 provides a sense extension: "Any decrease in provision
size or quality do [sic] to a hiearchical ranking among men."  with an
illustrative example: "When the fraternity entered the bar the bothers
were allowed to pick dates first while the pledges got sloppy
seconds."  that's essentially 'second choice(s)' (but restricted here
to male-ranking contexts).

a somewhat different extension appears in definition #5: "Alas, this
word has now leaked into general usage and people are taking it to
mean 'ill-fitting hand-me-downs'."  that's essentially 'second-hand

i take this sense (which i wasn't familiar with until the Avery thing
came around) to be close to Avery's sense, though Avery's use was
clearly sexual, and the items in question are women.  so the
substitutes "ex-girlfriends" and "former girlfriends" aren't really
accurate -- unless you understand "my girlfriend" to mean 'woman i am

all these extensions shift from "sloppy seconds" (a mass expression)
denoting an activity, primarily in "get/have sloppy seconds", to
"sloppy seconds" (a count expression) denoting a woman (or women), as
in Avery's "fall in love with my sloppy seconds" 'fall in love with
women i have screwed'.

meanwhile, there's Sloppy Seconds ("a Ramones-influenced punk band
from Indianapolis that started in the mid-1980s", according to
wikipedia), the 2006 movie Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds (with
"seconds", 'second helping'), the 2008 movie Feast II: Sloppy Seconds,
a card game Sloppy Seconds (in which the object is: "Score the SECOND
most number of points of each suit in each hand"), references to re-
makes of movies as "sloppy seconds", references to plagiarizations as
"sloppy seconds", and goodness knows what else.

and, of course, guys blogging that they'd be happy to take Sean
Avery's sloppy seconds.

by the way, the NYT didn't shy away from "sloppy seconds" in this
movie review (of Vicky Cristina Barcelona) from 8/20/08:

Sloppy Seconds

Woody Allen fails to capitalize on a threesome with his sexy act

By Armond White

... Rebecca Hall plays Vicky, the brunet BFF of Scarlett Johansson’s
Cristina (the Iberian spelling goes unexplained). These sisterly
American tourists are seduced by a suave Spanish painter, Juan Antonio
(Javier Bardem, another Woody draftee cashing in on his recent
celebrity). Vicky drops her pants, then her Yankee prudery, unlike
thrill-seeker Cristina who insists to Juan Antonio, “You have to
seduce me.”

Through this sneaky, sloppy-seconds friendship, Allen pretends
complexity but merely confuses basic emotions.



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

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