"to sling (arms)", 1749, interdates OED2 1688--1791

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Apr 22 01:52:43 UTC 2014

My butt-end and fundamental opinion now is:

A.  The command

The command "sling arms" was only given to men-at-arms carrying long
arms that had slings *attached*.  ("Shoulder arms" to those carrying
weapons without slings.)  That was suggested by Jon (see also Amy
below on "shoulder [firelocks]"), and seems to agree with the 1824
quotation from the "New England Guards" (GBooks):

"Sling arms" (two motions)
1. Hold the piece firmly, in the position of "present arms," with the
right hand, and press the sling out to the front with the open palm
of left hand.
2.  Raise the right arm, turning the butt upward, slip the head and
left arm between the sling and the gun, let the gun fall behind the
back, butt over the right shoulder, arms falling to the sides.

B.  The OED.
B.1  As a verb.

The 1749 quotation perhaps fits under "sling, v.2" sense 3, which already has:
1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory (1905) iii. xix. 153/1   Granadeers haue
a care. Sling your musketts.

Thus I propose:
1749 March, The London Magazine or Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer,
p. 139, col. 2.  (GBooks, full view.)

On the Report of a British Fleet being to be sent to the Baltick.

When war subsided in the South,
Bellona seem'd to close her mouth,
Her cheeks were smooth, her arms were slung,
and down her trumpet careless hung;
She look'd so tranquil on the nations,
They all appear'd like near relations.

Interdates OED2 "sling, v.2" sense 3, 1688--1791.

B.2  As an adjective.

Perhaps "slung" is an adjective, corresponding to "smooth" of
cheek.  But there is no "slung, adj." headword in the OED Online.

At 4/21/2014 12:15 PM, Amy West wrote:
>On 4/19/14, 12:01 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
>>Date:    Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:07:37 -0400
>>From:    Jonathan Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>>Subject: Re: "sling arms" (not in OED2) -- why not before 1824?
>>Recall, however, that OED does have "Granadeers have a care. Sling your
>>musketts." from 1688. It wasn't published till 1905, which may explain its
>>absence from EEBO.
>Good find. Now I have to go  and look and see what the source is. . .
>>N&Q (Ser. 2) IX (Feb. 4, 1860) 77 has "1. Handle your Slings. 2. Sling your
>>Firelocks." as drill commands for grenadiers in 1702. Musketeers are
>>ordered instead to "Shoulder [firelocks]."
>Yes. That's the more typical order: I've heard that during 1860s bayonet
>>Grenadiers carried sling muskets because they needed both hands to prepare
>>their grenades.
>That makes sense.
>>But I think the upshot of all this is that Bellona's "Arms" in the poem are
>>unspecified "weapons," not her flesh-and-blood arms, and she's slung them,
>>at her side or over her shoulder,  because the battle is over.

"Cheeks are smooth" I suppose means she no longer has an irate
expression.  But temporarily; see the verses on page 140.


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

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