clobber (verb), an early use (1944)

Jonathon Green slang at ABECEDARY.NET
Sat Dec 9 13:42:04 UTC 2006

Stephen Goranson wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      clobber (verb), an early use (1944)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> clobber: to beat severely
> OED 18 Nov 1944 Origin unknown; HDAS 1944 orig. unkn.
> 19 July 1944 Times
> Second Army Breaks Through
> Armoured Forces Reach Open Country
> Unprecedented Air Bombardment
> General Montgomery "Well Satistied"
> [....] A pall of death hung over the valley of the Orne this morning,
> and though
> there was further damage to French life and property it was the enemy who
> received fearful punishment. Operation Clobber--to "clobber" a target
> is one of
> the newest verbs in air force language--will long be remembered.
> Stephen Goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Somewhat earlier we have:

1892 Kipling ‘Loot’ in _Barrack-Room Ballads_ When from 'ouse to 'ouse
you're 'unting, you must always work in pairs -- / It 'alves the gain,
but safer you will find -- / For a single man gets bottled on them
twisty-wisty stairs, / An a’ woman comes and clobs ’im from be’ind.

Which surely must be synonymous with the quoted use of _clobber_. But
_clob_ does not exist in this def. in OED or EDD, only as a dialect term
for a lump (i.e. clod) of earth. The OED has clobber as 'ety.unknown',
but is it too far-fetched to see the tossing of a clob - in play, as an
attack - as a feasible precursor of the vb. That said, there are no
reports of a vb. use of clob itself...


PS. Looking at the full poem, about looting in India c.1890, I find
purely coinicidentally the other, earlier use of 'clobber': clothing,

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