Antedating of "Smoking Pistol"

Sun Dec 31 01:08:22 UTC 2006

        Actually, there are various earlier uses of "smoking gun" and "smoking pistol," though it may be objected that these, unlike the usage in my earlier post, are merely transparent collocations.  Here's the earliest I saw, from 1848:

        <<His father looked from Merton to him and from him again to Merton, with a guilty and stupefied scowl, still holding the smoking pistol in his hand.>>

Marston of Dunoran, in 18 Littell's Living Age 65 (1848) (Cornell Making of America) (reprinted from the Dublin University Magazine).

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Baker, John
Sent: Saturday, December 30, 2006 7:22 PM
Subject: Antedating of "Smoking Pistol"

        Yale (or should I shorten the Yale Book of Quotations to YBQ?) cites an 1893 Doyle story as the earliest known usage of smoking gun or smoking pistol.  Here's an 1883 usage that makes it clear that a smoking pistol already was seen as stereotypical evidence of crime:

        <<The implements of crime should be detained as evidence, and seized to be so detained; and the house or room where gaming is carried on or suspected on common knowledge to be carried on, may be broken open to arrest the keeper and seize the tools of his trade on legal authority. Code, §4547. The warrant to seize the keeper of the unlawful house or room carries with it the power or legal authority to seize the implements of his crime, just as a warrant to arrest a man charged with murder would carry with it authority to seize the bloody knife or smoking pistol which killed, or a warrant to arrest a counterfeiter would include the legal seizure of his tools for counterfeiting.>>

Kneeland v. Connally, 70 Ga. 424 (Feb. 20, 1883).

John Baker

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