Clashing slang

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 17 17:41:14 UTC 2010

Back in 1949(?), I read a story by Damon Knight entitled, "Not With a
Bang." This title struck me as so hip that it introduced me to, and
made me a fan of, T.S. Eliot, one of Saint Louis's most famous native
sons. Only a few moments ago, however, did it strike me that this
title is a pun.

The story is about a jerk, probably the last man on earth, who
ultimately fails in his efforts to seduce a woman, probably the last
woman on earth, so as to begin the repopulation of the world with

_Bang_ as a slang term meaning

"engage(ment) in sexual intercourse"

does not exist in the BE of my generation. However, by sheer
coincidence, the old, (white) college drinking-song with the words,

"He banged her once / He banged her twice / He banged her once too often ..."

was running through my mind. Then... *Flash!* It hit me:

"This is the way the world ends / *Not* with a _bang_"!
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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