"like a herd of turtles"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 10 12:28:42 UTC 2014

Obviously many did.  My SWAG, however, is that the phrase came first,
possibly in the buttless version.

IIRC, that version didn't make it into HDAS because first, the cites were
newer, and second, back in the "B's" I was maybe overly concerned about
whether a phrase was "slang" or merely "kind of informal."

Since big birds do take off, I opted for the latter. (To my way of
thinking, the suffixation of "-ass[ed]" makes any adjective or verb slang;
but what do I know?)


On Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 11:27 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "like a herd of turtles"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 8:56 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Wilson, see HDAS sv "big-assed," adj.
> >
> > Or don't bother. "Take off like a big-assed bird" was in print by 1945.
> >
> > Otherwise:
> >
> > 1947 _Nashua Telegraph_ (June 27) 10 (NewspArch): Watch 'em take off like
> > a
> > big bird,
> >
> I did see. That's why I didn't bother to note my intuition that "take off
> like a big-assed bird" probably didn't originate among ground troops. I
> didn't think that the phrase was new in any interesting sense. It's only
> that, like "herd of turtles," it's something that I would be unfamiliar
> with, if not for my stint in the military.
> By 1945, did people still know that there was an actual "big-assed bird,"
> the B-17, that could literally "take off"?
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> 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
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