riding shotgun

Sun Apr 18 15:49:21 UTC 2004

Sorry, I forgot that when I access my email account via the Internet, my message is transmitted, for reasons unknown to me, as a binary file.  For those who were unable to read it, my post read as follows. In the intervening time, Sam Clements has already found an antedating to the 1939 use in Stagecoach:

        As Sam Clements previously noted, the earliest use of "riding shotgun" seems to be in the 1939 movie Stagecoach, a use found by C.K. Dexter Haven, an administrator at the Straight Dope Message Board.  Stagecoach was based on the 1937 short story Stage to Lordsburg, by Ernest Haycox.  I did a search for "shotgun" in that story, using Amazon's search function, and found only the following, from the first page of the story, for any version of "riding shotgun":  "The stage and its six horses waited in front of Weilner's store on the north side of Tonto's square.  Happy Stuart was on the box, the ribbons between his fingers and one foot teetering on the brake.  John Strang rode shotgun guard and an escort of ten cavalrymen waited behind the coach, half asleep in their saddles."

        This suggests that "riding shotgun," as opposed to "shotgun guard" and similar phrases, likely originated with the 1939 movie.  It remains to be seen how the phrase moved to refer to the front seat passenger of an automobile.  It is also possible, though it presently seems less likely, that the automobile usage predated 1939 and influenced the screenwriters' choice of words.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Mark A. Mandel
Sent: Sunday, April 18, 2004 11:02 AM
Subject: Re: riding shotgun

John Baker wrote:


Please don't put binaries here. That includes Word files and anything
else that isn't plain text.

Copying text from a word processor and pasting is OK, with the caveats
that Word's notion of "plain text" includes curly quotes, em dashes, and
so on that don't always come across. Attaching a word processor file is
not OK.

-- Mark A. Mandel

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