[Ads-l] "hard as Chinese arithmetic": HDAS 1977, antedating

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 17 17:33:55 EDT 2017


Is Chinese arithmetic that much harder than the other kind?

JL

On Sat, Jun 17, 2017 at 3:58 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> Below is a non-metaphorical phrase with "hard' and "Chinese
> arithmetic" in 1963. The use suggests (to me) that the journalist was
> referencing an established figure of speech.
>
> Date: August 8, 1963
> Periodical: Jet
> Quote Page 57
> Publisher: Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Arrest Negro Writing Policy Numbers In Chinese
>
> Police found it hard as Chinese arithmetic to catch John Singleton,
> Philadelphia numbers suspect. Singleton, 44, was observed taking bets
> inside a laundromat, but officers couldn't figure out the strange
> markings on the pad of paper. After hurried trips to local Immigration
> and Customs houses and a Japanese doctor, police were finally referred
> to a Korean student, who identified the numerals as Chinese. The
> accused was held in $300 bail.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Date: July 28, 1970
> Newspaper: Aiken Standard
> Newspaper Location: Aiken, South Carolina
> Quote Page 1
> Database: Newspapers.com
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Why no one has won I can't understand
> For a puzzle so simple, a puzzle so grand
> I've heard people say and it makes me sick
> It's harder than Chinese arithmetic
> But that's not so and I tell you the truth
> It's easier than losing a baby tooth.
> [End excerpt]
>
> There are matches for "Chinese arithmetic" going back to the 1800s,
> but the connotations are variable.
>
> Garson
>
>
> On Sat, Jun 17, 2017 at 1:01 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> > The old man and lesser mortals - Page 135
> > https://books.google.com/books?id=E78eAAAAMAAJ
> > Larry L. King - 1974 - ā€ˇSnippet view
> > ... companion in Odessa (except for his affectionate new wife, Ann) is
> > Norman Childress, a used-car salesman and free spirit given to such
> shotgun
> > observations as "Just dancin' with that ole girl made my dingus _hard as
> > Chinese arithmetic_.
> >
> > In my experience, this dates back to at least 1949." Some others of this
> > type from that era are:
> >
> > harder than a molunk chunk
> > hard as times was in '32
> > so hard, a cat couldn't scratch it
> > so hard, it could scratch diamond
> >
> > In 1961, I heard from a fellow St. Louisan attached to my unit on
> > T[emporary]D[ut]Y,
> >
> > ". . . so hard, I didn't have enough skin left to close my eyes"
> > --
> > -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
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > 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."

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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