Grind House

Darla Wells dlw3208 at LOUISIANA.EDU
Fri Mar 30 13:42:30 UTC 2007

When I traveled with various carnivals in the 1980's, I never heard the slang
grinder, but they did have grind shows that had a recording that looped over
and over describing things like "the beautiful woman who turns into a giant
snake." The person running it was often considered an agent like the other
people in the joints. Barkers were reserved for tent shows.

A while back, burlesque shows were also associated with carnivals and fairs--I
remember being taken to see one in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the early 80's and
being told that I was witnessing something historic because they were almost
extinct as far as the carnivals went.

It wouldn't surprise me if the term grinder was associated with the carnival,
because most carnivals consider themselves show business and share a lot of
features with the film industry. When I was with a Carnival Time Shows in
Southern California, we got rented out for commercials and such and got to
watch various actors make fools of themselves on the rides. The movie "Mask"
which Cher starred in was one of ours. There was a journal for shows that
contained material on concerts, carnivals, movies and bookings and such called
the AB or The Amusement Business, but I think it recently went out of business.


On Fri, 30 Mar 2007 02:47:05 EDT, Bapopik wrote
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
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> Subject:      Grind House
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Grind House" was partly filmed in Austin, by acclaimed directors
> Quentin  Tarantino and Roberto Rodriguez. Tarantino frequently
> explains the term. ... I don't think it has any connection to
> "grinder" (barker), as OED hints.  It's probably literally a grind
> house--a film mill. Earlier citations welcome.  Is VARIETY
> searchable? ... ... ... 14 June 1927, Helena (MT) Independent, pg. 7,
>  col. 3: The shutdown at the Rialto will leave only a grind house
> where second run  films are shown to cater to the movie fans of
> Butte. ... ... 4 March 1928, Syracue (NY) Herald, pg. 2, col. 6: It
> is intended to operate a 24-hour grind house program to run about an
>  hour, made up mostly of shorts. ... ... ...
> (OED)
> grind house, n.
> slang (orig. U.S.). Now chiefly hist.
> [Prob. < _GRIND_
> a&search_id=CfAi-Lmnkxx-19826&control_no=20003051&result_place=1&xrefword=grin
> d&ps=n.&homonym_no=1)  n.1 (cf. sense 2 at that entry) + _HOUSE_
> x_to_show=10&search_spec=fulltext&sort_type=alpha&search_id=CfAi-
> Lmnkxx-19826&
> control_no=20003051&result_place=1&xrefword=house&ps=n.&homonym_no=1)
>    n.1
> J.  E. LIGHTER Hist.  Dict. Amer. Slang (1994 ) I. 970/1 suggests a
> further connection with  the relatively rare U.S. slang grinder ‘a
> barker who works continuously  in front of a single show’,
> earliest attested in 1926.]   A cinema showing a variety of films
> in continuous succession, usually with low admission fees and freq.
> concentrating on material regarded as of poor quality or little
> merit. Also: a  burlesque theatre; a strip club.  1925  Los Angeles
> Times  10 Oct. 2/3 An agreement was later made by the Motion-Picture
>  Theater Owners' Association of Southern California, it was said,
>  where payment  will be respectively $3 higher in suburban houses,
> $5 higher in downtown ‘grind’  houses and $8 in de luxe
> theaters. 1928  Washington Post 1 Apr.  III. 1/1 Many people thought
> Keith's Theater would align itself with the  so-called ‘grind’
> houses running twelve hours a day continuously. 1939  L. GODY  N.Y.
> City Guide 175 On  Forty-second Street west of Broadway..famous
> theaters have been converted into  movie ‘grind’ houses devoted
> to continuous double feature programs or burlesque  shows. 1966
> Playboy Dec. 244/1 By early 1958  all New York was a Bardot
> festival; her pictures, duly dubbed and scrubbed, were  playing not
> only in the art houses but in exploitation grind houses and in
>  respectable neighborhood theaters as well. 1993  Rolling Stone 10
> June 78/1 Nick  hangs with the street kids, especially Molly.., a
> child prostitute destined for  the grind house where her mother
> strips for droolers.  2000  Guardian 12 May (Friday Rev. section)
>  23/6, I remember solitary teenage treks to a rat-infested ghetto
> grindhouse to catch some rotten  dubbed martial arts flick.
> ************************************** See what's free at
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