eyeball witness

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 20 19:27:23 UTC 2010

HDAS has an ex. of _eyeball witness_ from 1971 under _eyeball_, adj.  GB
shows that the term was used in Texas as early as 1961, and notably in the
report of the Warren Commission.   HDAS has _eyeball report_ from 1959.

I doubt that there is any necessary semantic distinction between _eyeball
witness_ and _eyewitness_, though the former is rhetorically marked and
therefore more emphatic. Thus Dan's interpretation.

On Thu, May 20, 2010 at 1:11 PM, 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: eyeball witness
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> 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
> Paul Frank
> Translator
> German, French, Chinese > English
> Rue du Midi 1, Aigle, Switzerland
> cellphone: +41 (0)77 409 6132
> paulfrank at post.harvard.edu
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