wet job

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Apr 22 14:58:18 UTC 2010

A not-infrequent reader of spy novels and crime novels, I did not recorgize the term "wet job," but I am quite familiar with the variant "wet work." It may be a claque:

1962  Vera Aleksandrova, "Youth and Life in Soviet Literature," _Studies on the Soviet Union_ 1 [mismarked "II"], no. 3: 159:  ". . . [H]e emerges an experienced gangster who finally takes to what is known in Soviet slang as 'wet work,' a term for murder."

Perhaps from unconsciously analyzing the image, I have always imagined that "wet work" refers specifically to the use of a knife--as distinct from garroting, poisoning, shooting, and other such less bloody ministrations.


---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2010 10:56:10 -0400
>From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> (on behalf of Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>)
>Subject: Re: wet job
>On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 10:52:57AM -0400, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
>> Have you checked "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" itself?
>I have. There's no relevant example of _wet_ therein.
>Jesse Sheidlower
>>  I would also check the work of James Mitchell. He wrote a British TV
>> series called Callan in the early 70s. The last show made was a reunion
>> show in 1981 called "Wet Job".
>> DanG
>> On 4/21/2010 3:05 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>>> The earliest relevant hit I got for "wet job" is from 1980.
>>>> Tempo
>>>> Pay-Per-View - Chicago Tribune - ProQuest Archiver - Nov 10, 1980
>>>> I feel like George Smiley in 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.' At
>>>> one point when someone asks Smiley if he ll go into East. Germany and
>>>> do a wet job ...
>>>> Tempo
>>>> A CIA agent quits and tells--and now pays and pays
>>>> Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) - Chicago, Ill.
>>>> Author: Rogers Worthington
>>>> Date: Nov 10, 1980
>>>> Start Page: A1
>>>> Pages: 2
>>>> Section: 2
>>> If I am not mistaken, "Tempo" is the culture section of the Trib, so the
>>> title is actually the second line, "A CIA agent quits and tells--and now
>>> pays and pays".

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