[Ads-l] Euphemism?

Mon Oct 14 14:22:28 UTC 2019

There are a couple of earlier examples from the (Salt Lake City) Daily Tribune (NewspaperArchive), probably both from the same writer, and both addressing free silver.

April 19, 1890:  “If a railroad company were to send out a train with only lubricating oil enough to keep the boxes of the passenger cars cool, leaving none for the locomotive, baggage and express cars, and then when the train came to a standstill because of hot boxes, were some wise ass to say:  To supply oil which will enable the locomotive to run, it will jump the track and smash things.” He would occupy exactly the same position that the goldito occupies to-day, and he would be just as wise as is the Senator or Representative or Secretary of the Treasury, who wants to hedge the silver bill around with objections which will destroy its usefulness.”

May 22, 1890, after quoting an article from the New York Evening Post:  “This same wise ass goes on to say, “There is no reason why the currency of the country should not be enlarged,” but adds, “but why must silver be singled out and stored by the hundreds of tons as a basis of currency when a better currency with less complication and less cost could be furnished with legal tender notes issued by the govern?””

There are also references to a “wise ass” in the 1604 play Westward Ho, by Thomas Dekker and John Webster, but it seems to have a different meaning there.

John Baker

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Monday, October 14, 2019 7:57 AM
Subject: Re: Euphemism?

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1951 Donald Powell Wilson _My Six Convicts_ (N.Y.: Rinehart) 45 [ref. to
1933]: Let this wise-ass ham hang himself.

Dr. Wilson's book is a semi-fictionalized account of his time as a prison
psychologist at Ft. Leavenworth in the '30s.


On Mon, Oct 14, 2019 at 12:24 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com<mailto:adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>> wrote:

> Ben Zimmer wrote:
> > Try hyphenating. OED2 has "wise-ass" from 1971 (Current Slang, Univ. S.
> > Dakota), and also "wise-assed" from 1967 (Tamony's "Americanisms").
> Green's
> > Dictionary of Slang, meanwhile, has "wise-ass" from 1961 and
> "wise-assed"
> > from 1960.
> >
> > https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/p7oyyzi<https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/p7oyyzi>
> > https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/laf3gkq<https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/laf3gkq>
> There are early matches in which a "wise ass" refers to a donkey. Here
> is a snippet match for "wise ass" with the modern sense that is
> probably from 1959.
> Year: 1959 (According to GB)
> Book Title: Let Me Be Awake
> Author: Stuart Mitchner
> Publisher: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., New York
> Database: Google Books Snippet; data may be inaccurate; should be
> verified with hardcopy. Probe for 1959 show "Copyright 1959" in a
> snippet.
> [Begin extracted text - GB page 127]
> “A wise-ass! We've got a goddam wise-ass! I hate wise-asses, Reed, and
> you're the biggest wise-ass in this whole green-ass lousy pledge
> class!” A pledge laughed and was immediately shouted down. “Funny,
> Bailey? Laughing at your own ...
> [End extracted text]
> Search for "1959" displays a snippet suggesting that the year is accurate.
> [Begin snippet text]
> Copyright (c) 1959 by Stuart Mitchner
> All Rights reserved, No Part of This Book May
> [End snippet text]
> Here is a match in 1960 that is fully visible in HathiTrust. The
> excerpt seems to be a war scenario and "Nips" are mentioned which
> suggests the WWII time period, but the slang presented by the author
> might be anachronistic
> Year: 1960 Copyright
> Book Title: Do Not Go Gentle
> Author: David MacCuish
> Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015030760725<https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015030760725>
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015030760725?urlappend=%3Bseq=233<https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015030760725?urlappend=%3Bseq=233>
> [Begin excerpt from page 226 and 227]
> Hudge grunted a laugh that dissolved into silence as the bleak eyes of
> Larko hit him. "You got a feather up your ass, Hudgins?"
> "Only salt water, Sarge. I was jus' thinkin'—"
> "Stow it! Yer not paid ta think."
> Hudge rapped his helmet with the knuckles of a dirty hand.
> "Pardon, commander. My head gets in the way sometimes."
> "The Nips have a cure for that, wise ass!"
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org<http://www.americandialect.org>

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