Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 14 00:25:54 UTC 2010

1938 Cyril Harris _Trumpets at Dawn_ (N.Y.: Scribner) 98: "Shut your heads,
you maggots," bawled Sergeant Hoyt.

The novel is set during the American Revolution. OED takes the metaphor back
to 1618, but as a simple term of contempt HDAS dates it only to 1680.
Perhaps the distinction is needlessly fine.

HDAS shows US military use (typically in the Marines) appearing in print in
1964. Robert Flanagan's novel, _Maggot_ (N.Y.: Paperback Library, 1971),
apparently based on some first-hand experience, places the idiom at Parris
Island in 1960.

On Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 6:45 PM, Gregory McNamee <gm at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Gregory McNamee <gm at GREGORYMCNAMEE.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Don't give (UNCLASSIFIED)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A small matter in the Larger Scheme of Things, to be sure, but Gunnery
> Sergeant Hartman is berating the entire unit (whom he endearingly calls
> "maggots"), not just Private Pyle, with these memorable lines:
> "If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will
> be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that
> day you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not
> even human fucking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces
> of amphibian shit."
> As events show, a somewhat gentler approach might have served him better...
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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