"gun play"?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 31 15:20:28 UTC 2009

Most amazing to me is that anyone would associate "gun-play" with child's
"play,"  except perversely.  "Gun-play" has always been part of the core
vocabulary of pulp/
Hollywood/ TV westerns, though admittedly these are not nearlyu as well
known as they used to be.

When I first learned "gun-play" as a child, I never associated it with any
other kind of play. It was just a word. But perhaps that was just me.

The word is patterned, of course, after the much older "swordplay."  1913
Merriam-Webster neatly defines this sense of play as "Action; use."  Cf.
"bring into play."

Unlike Wilson, but like the writer of the headline, I think "gun-play" can
involve the firing of a single shot by one person, as long as it's fired at
something other than a stationary, competition target.  I can almost hear
some villain in a western warning, "And remember: no gun-play!"


On Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 10:33 PM, Dave Hause <dwhause at jobe.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Dave Hause <dwhause at JOBE.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "gun play"?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Alas!  What a change in drill instructors there must have been by 1965!
>  You
> never heard, "This is my rifle, this is my gun..."?
> Dave Hause, dwhause at jobe.net
> Waynesville, MO
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> During my own blessedly-peaceful military career, I never came across
> the the word "play" associated in any way with the word, "gun."
> -Wilson
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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