a case (You're gonna have yourself a case)

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Sat Mar 15 20:04:41 UTC 2008

An unusual use of 'case' that I've wondered about:

    Now you can look as much,
    But if you much as touch,
    You're gonna have yourself a case:
    I'm gonna break your face.

    ("(Don't Mess With) My Toot-Toot", Rockin' Sidney, 1984)

The verse is interesting otherwise for its telegraphic wording: "You can
look as much [as you want], but if you [so] much as touch [my toot-toot]". I
gather that 'case' means "a whole mess of trouble", but don't know where
that meaning comes from. The song is a zydeco piece, so maybe this is some
kind of Louisiana regionalism.

A writer on the blog "I Am Not the Beatles" wonders about this, too:

Neal Whitman
Email: nwhitman at ameritech.net
Blog: http://literalminded.wordpress.com
Webpage: http://literalmindedlinguistics.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "Benjamin Barrett" <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
Sent: Saturday, March 15, 2008 4:51 AM
Subject: Re: a case ???

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Subject:      Re: a case  ???
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Some possibilities that come to mind are "write off" (some sort of
> nineteenth century accounting jargon essentially means "a loss"),
> "case for the police" and "case for the in-house scam books" where the
> pawn shop keeps a log of such incidents or people. Another is crazy (a
> case for the looney bins?). A final possibility is that "case" is
> jargon for a certain type of container that is associated with a loss,
> such as a box full of stones that sinks.
> Probably far-fetched speculation, in the hopes that something rings a
> bell with someone.
> Benjamin Barrett
> a cyberbreath for language life
> livinglanguages.wordpress.com
> On Mar 14, 2008, at 6:42 PM, George Thompson wrote:
>> I don't see a meaning for the word "case" in HDAS or Cassell's that
>> fits this without some heavy wrenching and squeezing.  Here it is
>> used to mean "a loss".
>> This is from a novel published in 1836.  (The author was a prominent
>> newspaper editor -- you've met him before.)  The scene is a
>> pawnshop.  A young man enters: he's a regular, coming in to pawn the
>> same gold watch and chain, redeeming it when he's flush.  This time
>> he's in a hurry, says to the pawnbroker, give me the usual for
>> this.  The pawnbroker hands him money, he rushes out.  The
>> pawnbroker looks at the watch, sees that instead of a gold chain,
>> this time the chain is gilded brass, rushes out after him.  He
>> returns, saying:
>> "Ah it's no use,: he said, "he's got off clear by this time, and my
>> thirty dollars is a case."
>> William Leete Stone, Ups and Downs in the Life of a Distressed
>> Gentleman, 1836, p. 191
>> GAT
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