[Ads-l] "Bullshit" ca1879

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 18 19:52:28 UTC 2017

On Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 10:03 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> HDAS includes an earlier bracketed entries from the 19th c., well
> antedating the OED's earliest cites, the second of which is actually (as
> Jon noted) for “Slap Jack Billy and bull dung Tommy"; I suppose the
> “bullsh-t” in the 1866 cite from W. H. Jackson’s diary is bracketed because
> it looks as though it’s literally referring to bullshit (“the manure of the
> oxen, which ignites & burns readily", not to the sense of the word that
> turned philosopher Harry Frankfurt into an eponymous best seller.  Unless
> Jackson was presupposing a pun (“stentorian tones” and all).

Thanks for pointing out the bracketed HDAS cites, Larry. One of them is
from the diaries of John Gregory Bourke -- in his entry for Oct. 26, 1881,
Bourke writes, "The town was then 'run' by a crowd of worthless, dissolute
and reckless desperadoes, the principals among whom...might be said to be
'Slap Jack Billy, the Pride of the Pan Handle' and 'Bull Dung Tommy.'"
(Based on other writings, I believe Bourke may have been talking about
Tucson here.) "Slap Jack Billy" matches the Las Vegas, N.M. sources, but
"Bull Dung Tommy"? I wonder if this was really Bull Shit Jack but Bourke
got the name wrong (in addition to euphemizing the nickname). Or did Slap
Jack Billy have more than one compatriot with a scatological sobriquet?

Perhaps not coincidentally, I see Bourke went on to write a book entitled,
"Scatalogic [sic] Rites of All Nations."



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