mystery meat

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Thu Mar 15 17:57:28 UTC 2012

At exactly the same time that  Arnold was eating mystery meat in the dining clubs of Princeton, I was offered, in the cafeteria of Hillcrest Dorm the University of Iowa, thin grey slices of what surely must have been beef and grey gravy, which the boys termed "mystery meat." I don't remember hearing the term before 1958, but we doubtless heard it from upperclassmen.

I imagine that few members of this list-serv who were freshmen before 1958 are still alive to report. College newspapers from 1950-1960 might turn up something.

In the 1970s, the same term applied in conjunction with anonymous oral sex, especially when the the body of the oralee was minimally revealed to the oralor (as for example through a small opening in a wall or door).

At any rate, this attests to the term's geographical spread by the later 1050s.

On Mar 15, 2012, at 12:07 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

> On Mar 15, 2012, at 8:56 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> Mystery meat is well entrenched in school cafeteria and well before my
>> time. In fact, I suspect that HDAS is off by 20-30 years at least, but I
>> have not investigated.
>>    VS-)
>> On 3/15/2012 11:45 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>> "Mystery meat":  HDAS: 1968 (nearly 100 years earlier as plain "mystery").
>>> JL
>>> On Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM, Victor Steinbok<aardvark66 at>wrote:
>>>> I thought it was "mystery meat"--also used on one of the Top Chef shows
>>>> when the meat was overcooked, making it unidentifiable....
>>>>    VS-)
> it was common when i was a freshman at Princeton (1958-59), and i gathered that the usage came from prep school usage from some time before.  so, like VS, i imagine it could be taken taken back to at least the 1940s.
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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