Clashing slang

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Mon May 17 22:35:37 UTC 2010

> That's... uhm ... interesting. I am used to "diddle" as more colloquial
> for the technical "molest". I suppose, it's just as asymmetric as "bang".
>     VS-)

I'd have guessed "diddle" as older as a slang term for to copulate than
"bang".  Sounds vaguely Elizabethan to me.

But ...

HDAS1 has "diddle" from 1864, "bang" in the same sense from 1698.

So I guessed wrong.

(That's leaving to one side the "diddle" = "gin" [shades of Jack Sheppard]
earlier cant sense of the word.)

However, Eliot left America about 1912, (white) Harvard graduate, and by the
time he wrote "The Hollow Men" (post-1923, but I can't think when exactly),
he'd have been exposed to both UK and US non-standard speech.

Eliot wasn't averse to register-jumping and colloquial usages, even before
"The Waste Land" in 1922 -- a classic example is the line "Our lot crawls
between dry ribs" in 'Whispers of Immortality" (in hard covers, 1920) ...

Except that the Toronto Representative Poetry Online text of "Whispers of
Immortality" (and RPO is *usually fairly reliable) has the following note to
line 9:

9] John Donne (1572-1631), English poet and (at his death) Bishop of London.
In his essay on "The Metaphysical Poets," published in 1921, Eliot wrote
that "A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility."

Donne dying as Bishop of London isn't simply wrong -- it's wrong in a quite
complicated way.  (Charles I was *thinking of making Donne a bishop before
Donne died in 1630 [sic], but didn't -- you have to go to quite a bit of
trouble to get something quite as skewed as this.)

At that point, I groaned and decided to give up.

But Wilson's earlier post indicating that "bang" = "screw" wasn't current in
BE vernacular speech in the fifties seems to me quite pertinent when we
consider what if any connotations Eliot (before we even get to Damon Knight)
might or might not have intended to load into the last line of "The Hollow

Not with a bang but a whimper, indeed.


The American Dialect Society -

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