Rum, sodomy, lash; rum, bum, baccer and other expressions

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun May 1 15:50:24 UTC 2011

At 10:04 AM -0400 5/1/11, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>Naval tradition? Monstrous. Nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash.
>These words are attributed second-hand to Winston Churchill in a diary
>entry dated 1950 as noted in the YBQ. When I looked into this quote a
>year ago I tried to find similar expression or precursors. There is an
>entry in "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases" edited by Eric Partridge and
>Paul Beale for another saying:
>beer, bum and bacca (tobacco).

At least this one is alliterative.  "Rum, sodomy, prayers, and the
lash", even if it might prove an attractive lure for some (although
perhaps not many--and "or" in place of "and" might have been more
appealing), not only fails to alliterate but contains 4 rather than 3
elements, and the latter has a better track record in catch
phraseology.  But the "rum" appearing in first place, above and
below, does recall other triads.  In "rum, bum and bacca", I hear a
foreshadowing of Eliot's curious cat "Rum-tum-tugger", although
perhaps there's no relation.  And then there is the elegantly
alliterative "Rum, Romanism, and rebellion", the memorable political
slogan impugning Grover Cleveland and the Democrats so effectively
that it obviously clinched the presidency for James G. Blaine ("the
continental liar from the state of Maine").


>   The reputed, almost legendary,
>pleasures of a sailor's life; since c. 1870. Since c. 1910, there has
>existed the var. rum, bum and bacca. In C20, usu. baccy, in both
>versions. ...
>I have not yet been able to find citations circa 1870 or circa 1910
>for these expressions. Perhaps they appear in diaries. Any suggestions
>for locating early examples of these expressions?
>Here is an instance that is probably dated 1937 with 'baccer instead
>of bacca or baccy.
>Cite: 1937, Witch in the Wilderness by Holdridge Desmond, GB Page 244,
>[Quinn & Boden Company, Rahway, New Jersey], Harcourt, Brace and
>Company, New York. (Google Books snippet, Not verified on paper; Data
>may be inaccurate)
>He turned to the men. "Nothing seems to have happened, but keep your
>guns with you. We'll get on with floating this baby-but no more Sunday
>School. When we get her off we'll just leave that bunch right here in
>the bushes and take the ship to some island somewhere where we won't
>be bothered, and life'll just be rum, bum, and 'baccer."
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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