Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Sep 25 19:12:27 UTC 2007

At 2:25 PM -0400 9/25/07, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On 9/25/07, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
>>  Google Books seems to show "take a whiz" from 1925--Benjamin De Casseres,
>>  _Mirrors of New York_:  "There was a cellar, however, three blocks
>>up the avenue
>>  where a gentleman could take a whiz at the wheel. No, we couldn't
>>do anything
>>  with the wheel today."  Although it's attractive to envision a
>>small waterwheel
>>  installed inside a urinal for the recreation of well hydrated
>>whizzers, I assume the
>>  reference is to some other activity.
>Presumably along the lines of "take a whirl/whack/crack/stab at".
And by the late 40s and early 50s, when "the whiz kids" was a
standard locution not only for the group that came to Ford after WWII
(including Robert F. Macnamara, for the term eventually turned
ironic) but for other groups of wunderkinder, including the
pennant-winning 1950 Phillies or TV game show contestants, I don't
think there was any snickering about any possible micturitional
double meaning.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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