[Ads-l] shoot one's wad (1860)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Aug 7 16:00:44 EDT 2017


> On Aug 7, 2017, at 3:51 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> 1888 _The Stag Party_ [n.p., n.d] [unp.]: Why is the bird hammering for
> worms on an old dry tree like a boy making water? He does it with his
> little pecker.
> 
> 1916 Henry Cary _Slang of Venery_ [TS.] II 29: Pecker -- The penis.
> 
> 1942 W. L. McAtee _Supplement to Rural Dialect of Grant County, Indiana, in
> the 'Nineties_(pvtly. ptd.) 7: Pecker poker, n., game of poker in which
> losers had to submit their peckers to blows with “hands” of cards.
> 
> F&H do include some American terms, though "pecker" is not marked as one of
> them.

Right, it’s marked as “venery” (no duh), but not as an Americanism.  No one in our poker group has ever called “pecker poker” as a Dealer’s Choice variant.  Seems like the male players would be somewhat at a disadvantage—unless, of course, it’s at a stag party.  Wonder which side of the pond that 1888 cite emerged from; the citation seems a bit... underspecified.
 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 3:19 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
> 
>>> On Aug 7, 2017, at 3:00 PM, Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU> wrote:
>>> 
>>> Not to mention "Keep your pecker up."
>>> 
>>> 
>>> —Charlie
>> 
>> Interesting.  The web hits ascribe the non-sexual meanings (where a pecker
>> is a mouth or face, as in “keep your chin up”) to British usage, while the
>> genital meaning is ascribed to U.S. usage.  But while Farmer & Henley,
>> hardly American-based, does gloss “keep your pecker up” as ‘to be of good
>> heart’, “pecker” itself has three senses listed in F&H:
>> 
>> 1. The appetite
>> 2. Courage; spirits; good cheer.
>> 3. The penis
>> 
>> LH
>> 
>> P.S.  Just thought to check OED, and sure enough, while it has cites back
>> to 1845 for “keep…pecker up” under sense 4: “courage, resolution”, it
>> identifies sense 5, ‘the penis’, as “chiefly U.S.”  But curiously the only
>> cite predating Henry Miller--
>> 
>> 1936   H. Miller Black Spring 142   Ought to stand on Times Square with my
>> pecker in my hand and piss in the gutter.
>> 
>> --is, yes, that same 1902 entry in Farmer & Henley, which is presumably
>> U.K. rather than U.S., although no cite is given.
>> 
>> Now if HDAS just went to P...
>> 
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of
>> Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>> Sent: Monday, August 7, 2017 12:37:54 PM
>>> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>>> Subject: Re: shoot one's wad (1860)
>>> 
>>> I agree that this one didn’t start out as graphic, but given a shift in
>> architecture of modern weaponry and thus in the nature of firing
>> mechanisms, and the lack of any commensurate shift in the…um, firing
>> mechanism and reloading possibilities of the human male anatomy, it’s
>> likely that the expression often gets reanalyzed along these lines assumed
>> by Mr. Weixel.  Reminds me of a similar shift (or possible shift) in the
>> way we understand “(it’s) down to the short hairs”, as discussed awhile
>> back by Safire:
>>> 
>>> http://www.nytimes.com/1987/01/11/magazine/on-language.html
>>> 
>>> Wiktionary invokes only non-sexual allusions:
>>> https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/down_to_the_short_strokes
>>> 
>>> Various other cites adduce rowing, golfing, or sexual origins.  But who
>> really knows? (Not necessarily a rhetorical question with our group!)  In
>> any case, it’s not as obvious as (to use TV warning abbreviations) the V
>> rather than S origin of “shoot one’s wad”.
>>> 
>>> LH
>>> 
>>>> On Aug 7, 2017, at 11:41 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> This expression is in the news because of a quote from Sen. Orrin Hatch:
>>>> 
>>>> http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/07/trump-obamacare-
>> congress-tax-reform-241340
>>>> "We’re not going back to health care. We’re in tax now. As far as I’m
>>>> concerned, they shot their wad on health care and that’s the way it is.
>> I’m
>>>> sick of it."
>>>> 
>>>> On Twitter, one reporter called the expression "graphic," likely
>> assuming
>>>> it originally referred to ejaculation.
>>>> 
>>>> https://twitter.com/NateWeixel/status/894570374989582336
>>>> 
>>>> But as has been discussed here in the past, the original metaphorical
>>>> foundation of "shoot one's wad" has to do with the wadding used for
>> loading
>>>> muskets and cannons and such.
>>>> 
>>>> Here's the earliest metaphorical usage I've found, in the sense of "use
>> up
>>>> all of one's resources" (in this case, rhetorical resources).
>>>> 
>>>> Clearfield (Pa.) Republican, Aug. 15, 1860, p. 2, col. 5
>>>> He, too, was called to the stand, and after torturing himself severely
>> some
>>>> thirty minutes, sat down -- not that the audience were tired of him, by
>> any
>>>> means; but the gentleman _had shot his wad_.
>>>> https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=12925332
>>>> 
>>>> --bgz
>>>> 
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>> 
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>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>> 
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>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> 
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