antedating of SWAG

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 21 18:12:25 UTC 2012

Here are instances of "wag" and "swag" in an Associated Press report
in November 1965. The reporter (or an editor) seems to be suppressing
the word "ass" which is not mentioned when the acronyms are explained.
Hence, "swag" becomes "stupid wild guess".

Cite: 1965 November 26, Seattle Daily Times, "Accuracy, Value of Body
Tally Questioned" by John T. Wheeler, [Associated Press], Page 9 [GNB
Page 11], Seattle, Wasington. (GenealogyBank)

[Begin excerpt]
In the field, officers went to units demanding a "wag" court to give
Saigon. This meant a wild guess of the number of enemy killed based on
bodies counted and on estimates by individual squads, platoon and
companies. As the pressure from Saigon mounted the jargon was altered
to "swag" count, meaning stupid wild guess.
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 9:23 AM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      antedating of SWAG
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Not in OED.
> I first heard this in the early '70s as the acronym of "Scientific
> Wild-Assed Guess."  Also "Stupid...."
> 1966 James H. Pickerell _Vietnam in the Mud_ (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill)
> 14: Consequently, troops in the field have started turning in what they
> refer to as a SWAG count, but what their superiors still call a "body
> count." (SWAG stands for "Stupid Wild-Ass Guess.")
> Malcolm W. Browne's intro is dated "February, 1966."
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list