[Ads-l] Dialect clash: _shlong_

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Dec 21 11:48:18 EST 2016

Indirect support for Ben’s conjecture comes from the fact that none of the other vulgarisms in the “shlong” class share this verbal sense, although many of them—prick, putz, shmuck*—do have personal (metonymic?) extensions as epithets.  The OED entry for “shlong” includes such an extension ('Also applied contemptuously to a person’). I’ve never encountered this as an epithet, but I don’t find it surprising to know it exists, while I would be surprised to hear “X putzed/shmucked Y" used to mean ‘X defeated Y soundly’.  

*There’s even another from Portnoy:  _shvantz_ (< Yiddish ‘tail, penis’ [anatomically], with the same personal extension (= ‘asshole’ [non-anatomically]):
"Not into your hat, you shvantz, you got to put that thing on your head! You've got to put it on now and go back outside and walk around downtown Newark”


> On Dec 21, 2016, at 10:55 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> I've been mulling this over since our discussion last year...  The use of
> "schlong" for messy stunts on old TV shows seems like it's onomatopoetic --
> the sound of slapstick, like a pie in the face. Is it possible that the
> verb "schlong" ('to defeat soundly,' dated to 1967) emerged from this
> usage, meaning something like 'suffer an ignominious fate (as a pie to the
> face)'? And could that have developed independently from the Yiddish
> vulgarism that the world learned from Roth? Or are they intertwined in some
> other way?
> On Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 10:39 AM, Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:
>> The messy stunt meaning of "schlong" can be antedated to 1951 by a UP
>> article, which was in the Baytown (Tex.) Sun (Oct. 4, 1951), and also other
>> newspapers.  The article discusses the language of television and also has
>> some other antedatings, which I will write about in a separate post.
>> "Schlong - An expression originated by quiz show Producers Bill Todman and
>> Mark Goodson to describe acts involving pie throwing, squirting whipped
>> cream into faces or anything generally regarded as messy."
>> A different meaning of "schlong" is given in an article in the Altoona
>> (Pa.) Tribune (Dec. 11, 1946), describing an event in 1825 in which an
>> Indian was pursued by a posse and hid in a cave full of snakes.  The posse
>> was scared of the snakes, and the harmless Indian subsequently escaped.
>> "As they drew near he began to hiss as loud as a hundred snakes, and the
>> real "schlongs" as the old Dutch people called them, joined in the chorus.
>> No one would venture in; it was "Dutch bluster" to kill a poor old, tottery
>> Indian, who had done no worse than to be General Harry L. Bouquet's
>> mess-boy or cook but to lie on one's belly and go in head first to a
>> serpentine mass-meeting was different; louder and louder hissed the snakes,
>> and if any courage had existed among the posse it "oozed out of their feet."
>> John Baker
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>> Of Ben Zimmer
>> Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2016 9:54 AM
>> Subject: Re: Dialect clash: _shlong_
>> On Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 5:50 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> GBooks has the following snippet from 1967:
>>> A carnival of modern humor - Page 152
>>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__books.google.com_books-3Fid-3DjWseAAAAMAAJ&d=CwIFaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=yLppZ_rLCBvm1kDG7ul0gky_MUNgCf8QqYPjXzVlGRM&s=-SAaXd1xklfcweWm4dMcyl5Bjh5MsWKTxJFBJvKHigg&e= 
>>> Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, ‎Scott Meredith - 1967 - ‎Snippet view
>>> "But listen, old buddy. I got to beg off. I'm hung up."
>>> "Well, OK. I know how busy you educational-TV writers are. How's the show
>>> coming?"
>>> "Pretty messy. We're doing mostly _*schlong*_ stuff now and very little
>>> cerebral."
>>> "What the hell is _*schlong*_?"
>>> Unfortunately, the answer to this question is unavailable. And, since our
>>> word is here used adjectivally, the answer is most likely irrelevant, in
>>> any case. But...
>>> Youneverknow.
>> I can't see the answer to the question either, but from looking at other
>> snippets I believe this is a passage from "The Girl with the Bear Rug Eyes"
>> by Rex Lardner, a short story originally published in the April 1960 issue
>> of Playboy. And given the TV context, the use of "schlong" here is probably
>> related to a meaning that Garson uncovered last year:
>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__listserv.linguistlist.org_pipermail_ads-2Dl_2015-2DDecember_140199.html&d=CwIFaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=yLppZ_rLCBvm1kDG7ul0gky_MUNgCf8QqYPjXzVlGRM&s=ex1R4_po-PBLANAlQ6oybdXK-gZuKAF_Pgu9KCVFgFo&e= 
>> 1954 August 20, St. Petersburg Times, Radio and Television:
>> Television's 'Schlongs', Their Antics Described by John Crosby, Quote
>> Page 34, Column 1, St. Petersburg, Florida. (Google News
>> Archive)
>> You know what a schlong is? If you have followed the careers of Ralph
>> Edwards or "Beat the Clock" or any other shows of that ilk, you have
>> seen a lot of schlongs. A schlong, to end this suspense, is a rather
>> messy stunt. A contestant gets a pie in the face. The audience howls.
>> That is a schlong.
>>> However, cf. the following:
>>> New American Review - Issue 1 - Page 139
>>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__books.google.com_books-3Fid-3DYzhZAAAAYAAJ&d=CwIFaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=yLppZ_rLCBvm1kDG7ul0gky_MUNgCf8QqYPjXzVlGRM&s=FvB8aTMhQlX0Ud2wOQjWUMBbJK0Fh0K7D48mV3oPtuQ&e= 
>>> Ted Solotaroff - 1967 - ‎Snippet view
>>> Mocked and mangled as his masculinity was, in a world of goyim with
>> golden
>>> hair and silver tongues, between his legs, God bless my father! he was
>>> constructed like a man of consequence, two big, healthy balls such as a
>>> king would be proud of, and a _*shlong*_ [italics original] of
>> magisterial
>>> length and girth.
>> As Larry noted upthread, this is from _Portnoy's Complaint_. Roth published
>> an early excerpt of the novel in the Sept. 1967 issue of New American
>> Review under the title "The Jewish Blues." Excerpts had already appeared in
>> other magazines (Esquire, Apr. 1967, "A Jewish Patient Begins His
>> Analysis," and Partisan Review, Aug. 1967, "Whacking Off"), but the NAR
>> excerpt may have been the first time Roth introduced "s(c)hlong" to the
>> world. So that means he still has the earliest citation date (antedating
>> CUSS 1968).
>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.nybooks.com_articles_2007_10_25_the-2Dbirth-2Dof-2Dportnoy_&d=CwIFaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=yLppZ_rLCBvm1kDG7ul0gky_MUNgCf8QqYPjXzVlGRM&s=5XMINgu8Z7VQ59SuuKu5wpVUsXi9TFPvxqf9Wh0TMMA&e= 
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