eyeball witness

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu May 20 17:11:18 UTC 2010

When I heard it on The Wire, I took "eyeball witness" to be simply more emphatic that "eyewitness." IIRC, it's used on the show when the police officer is celebrating the ease with which a case can be closed, or bemoaning the difficulty of same. E.g., "I handed you a case with an eyeball witness." (not an actual quote from the show)

I've assumed the slang and jargon on The Wire is fairly accurate. The creators have long experience in the world of drugs and Baltimore police. David Simon was the police reporter for the Baltimore Sun for many years and Ed Burns was a long-time Baltimore homicide detective (and teacher in the public schools, which comes into play in season 4).

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Paul Frank
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010 9:45 AM
Subject: eyeball witness

Is there any semantic difference between an "eyewitness" and an
"eyeball witness," or is the difference simply one of register? I
heard someone say "eyeball witness" in the Wire, season 2, episode 4.
The term is not listed in the desk dictionaries I've consulted. In his
 Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, Bryan A.* Garner tells his readers
to avoid it.

*The A stands for anal retentive, which is a good thing for a writer
of prescriptivist style books.


Paul Frank
German, French, Chinese > English
Rue du Midi 1, Aigle, Switzerland
cellphone: +41 (0)77 409 6132
paulfrank at post.harvard.edu

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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