"gun play"?

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Wed Dec 30 19:42:49 UTC 2009

My partner, who lives outside Fairbanks, Alaska, pointed out a to her jarring turn of phrase in a headline in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: "Domestic dispute leads to gun play on post" (this has now been changed to "Fort Wainwright soldier fires gun through wall after dispute with wife" -- http://newsminer.com/pages/full_story/push?article-Fort+Wainwright+soldier+fires+gun+through+wall+after+dispute+with+wife%20&id=5364532)

In her words: "I wonder why the newspaper calls it gun "play" when someone shot up his apartment after smacking around his wife. Where'd this use of "play" originate?"

The online Merriam-Webster has 1881 as a date, no cites, for "gunplay: the shooting of small arms with intent to scare or kill", and I don't have access to the OED right this moment. There are a small number of examples in the press, usually for scary frivolous discharging of firearms.

Is this in general use? And why "play" -- is there a specific military link, maybe?


Chris Waigl -- http://chryss.eu -- http://eggcorns.lascribe.net
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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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