Contemporary slang bites the big one

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 13 20:16:19 UTC 2006

A while ago, I received an e-mail from my sixteen-year-old niece. She
explained away her theretofore lack of communication by saying that
"our main computer bit the big one."

I thought, "main computer"? They have more than one? Oh, of course.
She's referring to the desktop WRT the laptop. "Bit the big one"? That
makes no sense. Wouldn't the main computer have bitten the *small*
or the "little" one? WTF?! And how does one computer "bite" another,
anyway? One got a virus and infected the other? WTH?!

Then, suddenly, it was 1959 and I was saying to a fellow GI: "Burn-bag
detail in the middle of August? Jesus fuckin' Christ! That _takes it up the
/ eats the green wienie! / takes the meat! / BITES THE BIG ONE!"_
I thought condescendingly, "When are chicks finally going to give up trying
to express themselves in guy-talk?" "Bites the big one" is used only in the
present. You can't say, "*bit* the big one"! And it means that some
*situation* -
such as having to burn hundreds of
duffle-bag-sized bags of classified material in a
furnace room hardly larger than a restroom stall, in which the
temperature never
drops below 120 degrees even in the middle of winter - sucks or blows.
A concrete
object like a computer can't "bite the big one"!

Then I thought, "Hold the phone! Let's see what HDAS says." Well, HDAS's
cite is from only 1977, giving plenty of time for various shifts from the
military meaning.
But, even that cite pretty much still coincides with the military meaning.
even HDAS has only a single example of this phrase used in the past
and, even there,
it has the meaning of "died," with a date of 1988.

-Wilson Gray

The American Dialect Society -

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