Dialect Notes 1903: Word-List from East Alabama

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 20 12:32:16 UTC 2010

Snipe (or is it "snipes"?) are common in Iceland.  They squeak during the
so-called "night" with a sound not distinguishable from a rusty hinge.

The "snipe hunt" is the only expanation I've ever encountered for "left
holding the bag."


On Sun, Sep 19, 2010 at 9:14 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Dialect Notes 1903: Word-List from East Alabama
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sun, Sep 19, 2010 at 7:58 AM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > "If it's new to me, and I heard it in this
> > offbeat area, it's probably peculiar to the area."
> "I reckon that y'all done caught the the old coon, this," to borrow
> the punchline of and old joke. I've been taken from the path of
> righteousness in making a number of such assumptions. That why I
> thought that the 1903 use from E 'Bama was worthy of note. Around the
> time that the expression was hip, there was an article in Language
> that indicated that, back in the Herman-Melville-Moby-Dick,
> wooden-ship, whale-hunting days, harpooners and their associates
> ofttimes discussed the exact moment at which the harpooner should
> "sock it to" a whale. So, I was fully aware that the, IMO,
> somewhat-irrelevant usage cited from Eastern 'Bama was no kind of
> antedating.
> It merely struck me as trivially interesting, though *much* less
> interesting than the author's description of "snipe-hunting," wherein
> the chump is "left to hold open the bag into which the snipes are
> supposed to run" or some such. Being in fact not much more than an
> interested bystander here, I have no idea whether such is really the
> source of the expression, "to leave someone holding the bag," or
> whether the cite constitutes an antedating. But, I certainly find it
> interesting and it makes perfect sense of a heretofore totally-obscure
> idiom. I've wondered for years what sense there was to be found in
> that expression. How and why is it a bad thing "to leave someone
> holding the bag"? Is there something in the bag that's bad,
> embarrassing, or what? Now, the essence of the expression seems
> crystal-clear.
> As fate would have it, I've known since childhood that "snipe-hunting"
> was some kind of trick. I once saw a movie in which some inconvenient
> character was gotten rid of by being sent on a "snipe-hunt." But,
> aside from the the fact that the movie made clear that "snipe-hunting"
> was a fool's errand, nothing was said about what "snipe-hunting"
> involved. This movie was somewhat more confusing because I knew that
> there exists an actual bird called a "snipe." So, why is it that going
> to hunt them should mark a person as some kind of fool?
> Youneverknow.
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>  –Mark Twain
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