get one's goat (1906)

Fri Oct 3 23:12:56 UTC 2014

Many of the early uses have to do with boxing.   These are from and are the earliest three I saw there.

"Jack was at sea.  Well, he was not exactly, either.  I think the crowd got his goat, or the idea of fighting - one or the other - because he did not say boo and sat down like a mope."  Washington Times, Nov. 18, 1905, p. 8.

"Oh, what a wallop!  [para]  He surely had it when he landed me that day.  No, none of them can punch like Corbett.  He got my goat that day and got it good."  Kansas City Star, Nov. 22, 1905, p. 21.

"It pretty nearly makes one tired to read all the stuff that has been written of late about Billy Nolan, manager of one Battling Nelson.  Some reviewers have gone so far as to say it was Nolan and not Nelson who bested McGovern over in Philadelphia recently.  Nolan did this and that; he had the rules changed to suit Nelson; he had clauses interpolated in the articles that lessened McGovern's chances of victory; he arranged to keep Terry in the ring a long time before the bell in order to get his goat and shatter his nerves . . . ."  Cincinnati Enquirer, Mar. 25, 1906, p. 33.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Ben Zimmer
Sent: Friday, October 03, 2014 4:54 PM
Subject: Re: get one's goat (1906)

On Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 1:03 PM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
> 1905, Oct. 28, possibly relevant:
> "If that don't get my goat!..." [The scan is not great: the ! and the context is not especially clear.]
> Colliers p. 30

An interesting find, though I agree it's hard to know what to make of
it based on the context. It doesn't appear to mean "anger, annoy,"
given the speaker's convivial tone. But as Patricia T. O'Conner and
Stewart Kellerman note on their Grammarphobia blog, the meaning of the
idiom was somewhat in flux in the early days -- they cite a 1908
example where it seems to mean "to move (emotionally)":


Ben Zimmer

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