antedating: "damn-all"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Jul 27 18:11:31 UTC 2008

Many memoirs agree that this was in use in the British Army during World War I, but OED's prime ex. is from Joyce's _Ulysses_ in 1922 (though Joyce scholars and users of HDAS know that a better date would be "1914-22," and that Joyce was trying to reproduce meticulously the language of Dublin in 1904).
1915 in Bernard Adams _Nothing of Importance_ (London: Methuen, 1917) 29: The relieving regiment, you find on your return, has done "damn all," which is military slang for "nothing."
Those familiar with this usage and its siblings "bugger-all" (OED: 1937) and "fuck-all" (OED: 1916) may insist that they really mean "nothing (in contexts implying that anything would be preferable)."

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