antedating "joint" (prison)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 1 23:14:54 UTC 2013

Though HDAS has a pretty unequivocal ex. from 1933, "the joint" was
popularized in the in crime writing in the 1960s and '70s, when it seemed
to edge out "the clink" and "the pokey" for a number of years.

Here's a slightly less unequivocal ex. from 1930. The difficulty comes from
knowing just how fully lexicalized the word was at this time. In other
words, was it a recognized synonym as it became later, or did it gain its
meaning solely from the context?

At the end of the movie "The Unholy Three," Lon Chaney, playing a crook
who's being taken back to prison, assures Lila Lee, "I'll be out of the old
joint before you know it."

The screenplay is by Tod Robbins, J.C. Nugent, and Elliott Nugent.

I don't know if the line appeared in the silent version of the same film,
made in 1925.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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