shoot blanks

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Nov 30 14:57:43 UTC 2010

On Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 3:21 PM, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: shoot blanks
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 02:35:07PM +0100, Paul Frank wrote:
>> Dipping into David Rakoff's Half Empty (it's so funny I have to read
>> other books in between), I've just come across the very common
>> expression "to shoot blanks" (to be sterile), which I'm sure we've all
>> heard hundreds of times over the years. It's not in the online OED or
>> any paper dictionary I know of.
> No, but HDAS has "to fire blanks", citing Wentworth & Flexner
> in 1960.
> Jesse Sheidlower

If Google is any indication, the expression "to shoot blanks" is much
more common than "to fire blanks" in this sense.


Paul Frank
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
paulfrank at
paulfrank at

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