[Ads-l] Total silence - "hear a frog piss on cotton"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 12 12:09:18 EDT 2018


There's some evidence that instances of the phrase were employed by
Charlie Parker, Melvin Van Peebles, and Amarillo Slim.

Below is the earliest instance I found during a quick search.
There is a snippet match in a 1968 edition (which must be verified
with hardcopy).
There is also a match in a 2009 reprint edition that is visible via
Google Preview.

Title: Listen to the Lambs
Author: Johnny Otis
Quote Page 172 in 1968 edition according to Google Snippet
Quote Page 158 in 2009 edition via Google Preview
Publisher: 2009 edition from University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis
Publisher: 1968 edition from W. W. Norton & Company, New York

[Begin excerpt]
I introduced her to Chick, and John Truehart got his guitar. The cats
were making a hell of a racket with their card game, but by the time
Ella got through three or four bars of the old song 'Judy,' you could
hear a mouse pissin' on cotton!"

I plopped an empty pint of I. W. Harper into the can.
[End excerpt]

Garson

On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 9:09 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Google Books has variants with "mouse," "ant," "cat," and "flea," but "rat"
> shows up most frequently, esp. in jazz contexts. Examples:
>
> ---
> John Chilton, _Billie's Blues: A Survey of Billie Holiday's Career,
> 1933-1959_, 1975
> Everyone thought she wouldn't be at work because of her conduct, but she
> never missed one night, she packed that little club every night and when
> she sang it was so quiet you could literally hear a rat pissing on cotton.
> https://books.google.com/books?id=3ImfAAAAMAAJ
> ---
> Eric Sackheim, _Out of a Grey Notebook: Words I Found for My Children_, 1976
> When Hamp took his solos you could hear rats piss on cotton.
> https://books.google.com/books?id=33dRAQAAIAAJ
> ---
> Bill Crow, _Jazz Anecdotes: Second Time Around_, 1990/2005
> Roy Eldridge said [about Art Tatum performing]: Boy, you could hear a rat
> piss on cotton!
> https://books.google.com/books?id=cwUS3CGAe0sC
> ---
>
>
> On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 8:45 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > The version I encountered in the '70s was "a rat pissing on cotton."
> >
> > I suppose frogs are quieter, though.
> >
> > JL
> >
> > On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 5:25 PM Andy Bach <afbach at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > "'For a few seconds, you honestly could have heard a frog piss on
> > cotton. "
> > > John Carlos' autobiography "The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That
> > > Changed the World"
> > >
> > >
> > > https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/
> > tommie-smith-1968-50-years-later/568294/
> > >
> >
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


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