"gun play"?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 2 00:47:44 UTC 2010

"Ass bandit" is in HDAS fom 1954, originally an Americanism in a
heterosexual sense.

The novelistic source purports to reproduce teenage usage of the mid 1940s.

The relevant horseplay term "grab-ass" is well attested retroactively to
World War II. Before mid-century, such a term was unlikely to get into print
unless exceedingly common.  Early exx. of "play grab-ass" allude to the
Marine Corps, perh. esp. at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

On Fri, Jan 1, 2010 at 5:15 PM, Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "gun play"?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Yes, the term "gun play" is common, but whether this use matches the
> standard is a good question.
> The OED defines it a little differently ("The use of fire-arms; a
> shooting affray; skill in shooting") and its earliest illustrative
> quote is 1897.
> Off the top of my noggin, look to "swordplay" for the root of the
> "gun play" formation. M-W dates swordplay to 1602. But the first
> sense of "play" in MW is "swordplay".
> OED cites "lindplegan" in Beowulf and "sweord [p]legan" in Waldere as
> instances of sense 1b of "play" [n]: "The action of lightly and
> briskly wielding or plying a weapon in fencing or combat. Freq. as
> the second element in compounds" BUT then there's nothing until 1647.
> One of the things I do is read historical fencing manuals, and many
> of these are in German.  You'll appreciate that the Germans tend to
> use more "appropriate" terminology like "Arbeit" and "Krieg" for the
> particular back and forth or pushing and pulling between the
> participants.
> I can't recall if George Silver uses "sword play" or "play" in this
> sense in his two manuals c. 1590, but I can take a look.
> ---Amy West
> >In her words: "I wonder why the newspaper calls it gun "play" when
> >someone shot up his apartment after smacking around his wife.
> >Where'd this use of "play" originate?"
> >
> >The online Merriam-Webster has 1881 as a date, no cites, for
> >"gunplay: the shooting of small arms with intent to scare or kill",
> >and I don't have access to the OED right this moment. There are a
> >small number of examples in the press, usually for scary frivolous
> >discharging of firearms.
> >
> >Is this in general use? And why "play" -- is there a specific
> >military link, maybe?
> >
> >Chris
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