antedating "shouting distance"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 9 14:08:22 UTC 2011

OED: 1930

1836 _Bell's Life in London & Sporting Chronicle_  (Oct. 16) 1 [Newsp.
Arch.]: There are a few of the profession that may, comparatively, be
termed respectable; but so minutely few are they that they may be said
to be at a shouting distance from each other.

1841 _Daily Missouri Republican_ [St. Louis. Mo.] (Oct. 25) [19th C.
Amer. Newsp.]: Fortune drew the track. A very even start. Nancy took
the lead in the first quarter, closely followed by Rancocus and
Generva. - Fortune and Sailor Boy just in shouting distance.

1844 _Hampton Court_ I (London: Bentley) 62:  [T]he said wheels being
scarcely within shouting distance of each other, as a sailor would in
all probability observe.

The few earlier - and by far the most - 19th C. exx. are more or less
literal: actual shouting is implied.

As for the seafaring connection by both 1841 and 1844, my experience
suggests that "hailing distance" was more usual - a phrase less often
employed figuratively.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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