Further Antedating of "Nitty Gritty"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 13 04:21:35 UTC 2008

That seems to predate both the fixing of the phrase's syntax and
meaning. But that's a rather late development, anyway. As recently as
1957, I heard:

"Don't get nitty-gritty with me!"

in Los Angeles, at a time when, e.g.

"(Let's) get down to the (real) nitty-gritty"

was already the only version heard in Saint Louis.

Sometimes, it's possible to hear a slang term or phrase used all the
time in the same environment and still not be able to winkle out its
meaning. In my case, an example is

"That pussy was so good that I _popped my dick-string_ / she made me
_pop my dick-string_."

After hearing versions of this thousands of times in locker-room
stories for over a dekkid in Saint Louis, starting in the 'Forties,
when I reached puberty and big boys started to include me in their
conversations, and having no idea of its meaning, I finally squared
off / lamed out and asked around for the definition. The answers that
I got were so obviously bullshit that it became clear that the use of
the phrase had simply become traditional in locker-room stories and
*nobody* knew its meaning, anymore, that having long since been lost.


On Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 8:28 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Further Antedating of "Nitty Gritty"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> nitty gritty (OED3 1952)
> 1940 _Pittsburgh Courier_  29 June 10 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)  Any  convention goes lacking when that Joe Louis clenches his fists, put on the gloves, and steps into the ring in his pretty satin trunks and whips another guy down in the "nitty-gritty."
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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