"gun play"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 31 15:47:27 UTC 2009

At 10:20 AM -0500 12/31/09, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>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!"

As in my own recollected imprecations (received as a child and no
doubt recycled as a parent):
"Remember, no horseplay!"

--For which no actual horses need be harmed.  OED has cites from 1589
for the meaning 'rough, coarse, or boisterous play, passing the
bounds of propriety', exactly what our mothers were warning us

>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
>"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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