Silver bullet (figurative 1945)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Jan 10 03:21:31 UTC 2011


> The OED presents a figurative sense with a first cite in 1951.
>
> silver bullet, n.
> 1. b. fig. A simple, miraculous solution to a complex and difficult
> problem. Also (Med.): = magic bullet n.

As I recall, the Lone Ranger fired silver bullets.  Did this give rise to the expression or was it suggested by it?    My memories of the Lone Ranger radio show are probably from the late 1940s.

GAT

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Date: Sunday, January 9, 2011 6:01 am
Subject: Silver bullet (figurative 1945)
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU

> Fred Shapiro discussed "silver bullet" in a NYT blog post on Thursday.
> (Vic Steinbok and others discussed the phrase "dodging a silver
> bullet" in October on the list.)
>
> http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/quotes-uncovered-silver-bullets/
>
> The OED presents a figurative sense with a first cite in 1951.
>
> silver bullet, n.
> 1. b. fig. A simple, miraculous solution to a complex and difficult
> problem. Also (Med.): = magic bullet n.
> 1951    Bedford (Pa.) Gaz. 19 Sept. 1/3   There are those who warn
> against viewing the atom as a magic weapon . I agree. This is not a
> silver bullet which can deliver itself or otherwise work military
> miracles.
>
> A 1945 newspaper article profiled the battleship U. S. S. Pennsylvania
> aka "Old Pennsy" and used the term "silver bullet" in a way that may
> fit the definition above. The following text occurred at the end of
> the article:
>
> Cite: 1945 March 20, New York Times, Old Pennsy, Page 18, New York,
> New York. (ProQuest)
>
> She was the first American battleship to enter Leyte Gulf, and she
> stayed there thirty-seven days defying many a Japanese suicide squad.
> At Surigao Strait she helped send a couple of enemy battleships down
> to Davy Jones' scrap pile. It was her guns again that opened our
> drumfire in Lingayen Gulf.
>
> They say you can't lay a ghost except with silver bullets. The
> Japanese have no silver bullets for the Pennsy.
>
>
> In other words, the Japanese military have no simple solution to the
> difficult problem of the destruction wrought by the battleship.
> However, the usage is complicated by the fact that the article
> contains an extended metaphor about the battleship and ghosts. This
> text appeared earlier in the story:
>
> She was our flagship, and the Japanese, when they attacked Pearl
> Harbor, were determined to get her. They saw the exploding bomb that
> hit her superstructure, were sure they had sunk her, and so told the
> world. She has been haunting them ever since.
>
> Never has there been a livelier ghost nor, as the enemy has learned, a
> deadlier one.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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



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