"gun play"?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 2 15:18:42 UTC 2010

GB turns up a number of exx. of an expected "knife-play," though recent ones
refer to S&M techniques.

One that doesn't, from late 1920: "There is no etiquette regarding above-
and below-the-belt thrusts in knife play on the Pampas; in fact, of the two,
the latter is the more popular."

On Sat, Jan 2, 2010 at 10:04 AM, Dave Wilton <dave at wilton.net> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "gun play"?
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> The MED has many examples of the martial sense of play in Middle English,
> plei(e sense 4. Ex. from Lydgate's "Siege of Thebes" (a. 1450): "This was
> the play and the mortal game Atwen Thebans and the Grekys."
> Most of the Middle English cites continue this trope of conflating warfare
> and sport. I can't find any examples of compounds like "swordplay" or
> "shieldplay" (lindplegan) though.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of
> Amy West
> Sent: Friday, January 01, 2010 2:15 PM
> 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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