A Clockwork Orange

Jeff Prucher jprucher at YAHOO.COM
Fri Aug 3 04:17:35 UTC 2012

Perhaps also apropos is this entry from Jonathon Green's blog about Burgess, slang, and A Clockwork Orange:

"The phrase queer as a clockwork orange, which means eccentric or
bizarre, and can be applied sexually or otherwise, was sourced by
Anthony Burgess to late World War II when, as a serving soldier, he
heard it in the mess. I am quite willing to believe him: the phrase is
cognate with similar slang similes such as queer as a coot, first
ascribed to his acquaintance Julian McLaren Ross, queer as a three
dollar bill, queer as duck soup, a coinage of the 1930s and oldest of
all queer as Dick’s hatband, which seems as impenetrable a construct as
Burgess’s borrowing and has been recorded in this sense since at least
1835 (meaning ‘below par, or ‘out of sorts’ it goes back a further
half-century). As I say, I wish to believe, but…the problem is that we
have no proof. Despite the resources of the Internet, and other than in
scholarly articles that quote Burgess himself, the first recorded
citation comes as late as 1977, in a glossary appended to a book
designed to help policemen battle with the contemporary world."

Jeff Prucher

> From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Sent: Thursday, August 2, 2012 4:41 PM
>Subject: Re: A Clockwork Orange
>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:Â  Â  Â Â Â American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:Â  Â  Â Â Â Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:Â  Â  Â  Re: A Clockwork Orange
>On Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 3:29 AM, Randy Alexander
><strangeguitars at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I had never been able to give the title real meaning, and assumed it was just a surreal group of words.
>> [M]aybe because having something so organic be made out of something so inorganic seems to make it semantically empty[.]
>Yes. I fully agree with your comments, Randy. But, don't leave me
>hanging! WTF *is* the concept that underlies that title?! Perhaps I'm
>somewhat slow, but _A Clockwork Orange_ remains for me, in your
>asskickingly-felicitous phrase, "just a surreal group of words."
>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
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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