[Ads-l] wild card

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 3 13:42:44 EDT 2016


Of the various early examples I've turned up for the poker usage (predating
clearly adjectival "wild cards" starting in 1916 with Lardner), it's very
often phrased as "playing (with) deuces/jokers/etc. wild," so it seems to
me that "wild" was at least originally modifying "the whole situation," as
Larry puts it. Since the full expression was often given elliptically as
"Deuces (etc.) wild" (as "dealer's choice" instructions), I think that over
time such instructions came to be understood adjectivally as "Deuces (etc.)
*are* wild." But at least initially, that doesn't seem to have been the
default reading of "wild" -- otherwise we'd expect to see a range of more
clearly adjectival uses. So I'd just warn against a presentist
interpretation of the early evidence.

On Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 1:20 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
wrote:

> I tend to lean John's way on this, pace the OED's surmise.  "Deuces remain
> wild" (when the new dealer in dealer's choice calls the same game as the
> previous one) seems better to me than the true adverbials ("The dinner
> spread was the same as the lunch buffet, with potatoes remaining galore").
> And while "galore" arguably modifies the whole situation (I'm not sure it
> is, but let that go), "wild" really does modify "deuces", as John says.  I
> can imagine, in a hi-lo game, asking "How wild are the deuces"--i.e. are
> they wild for both high and low or just wild for the high hand.  (This
> comes up a lot in the game I play--in high-low baseball, 3s and 9s are wild
> for high only.)
>
> LH
>
>
> > On Oct 3, 2016, at 12:01 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> >
> > I was following the OED's treatment, which I think is correct. If it were
> > simply an adjective, we'd expect to see "playing with wild deuces" early
> on
> > rather than "playing with deuces wild."  Granted, one could think of
> "wild"
> > as a postpositive adjective like "apparent" in "heir apparent," but I
> think
> > it has more in common with postpositive adverbs like "akimbo," "aplenty,"
> > and "galore," as described here:
> >
> > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpositive_adjective
> >
> > --bgz
> >
> >
> > On Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 11:40 AM, Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com>
> wrote:
> >
> >> Very interesting, Ben.  What's the analysis that leads to the conclusion
> >> that  “wild” in “deuces wild” functions as an adverb?  Why is it not
> simply
> >> an adjective modifying "deuces"?
>
>

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