[Ads-l] shoot one's wad (1860)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 7 15:41:39 UTC 2017

This expression is in the news because of a quote from Sen. Orrin Hatch:

"We’re not going back to health care. We’re in tax now. As far as I’m
concerned, they shot their wad on health care and that’s the way it is. I’m
sick of it."

On Twitter, one reporter called the expression "graphic," likely assuming
it originally referred to ejaculation.


But as has been discussed here in the past, the original metaphorical
foundation of "shoot one's wad" has to do with the wadding used for loading
muskets and cannons and such.

Here's the earliest metaphorical usage I've found, in the sense of "use up
all of one's resources" (in this case, rhetorical resources).

Clearfield (Pa.) Republican, Aug. 15, 1860, p. 2, col. 5
He, too, was called to the stand, and after torturing himself severely some
thirty minutes, sat down -- not that the audience were tired of him, by any
means; but the gentleman _had shot his wad_.


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

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