[Ads-l] "Ticked off"; was Re: Punchline: A thing up with which I will not put (July 31, 1941)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue May 19 18:41:07 UTC 2020

Actually there's a British military "tick off" (akin to "tell off", and
presumably alluding to marking a demerit) going back to WWI that I suspect
is the relevant one in the Sussex narrative. The OED describes this sense
*3c.* To reprimand or scold.
1915   W. Owen *Let.* 2 Nov. (1967) 365   He has been ‘ticked-off’ four or
five times for it; but is not yet shot at dawn.
and distinguishes it from the U.S. slang sense
*3d.* To annoy, anger; to dispirit. Cf. ticked adj.2 c
<https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/201737#eid18371816>. *U.S.* *slang*.
1975   *Washington Post* 19 Feb. c 12/7   We got hit somethin' fierce. It
really ticked me off! We lost everything!
Hopefully, the prepositional culprit "junior" wasn't scolded as severely as
the miscreant in the Wilfred Owen passage, or at least was also not shot at
dawn for it.


On Tue, May 19, 2020 at 2:25 PM Stanton McCandlish <smccandlish at gmail.com>

> What's really curious to me about this is "ticked off" (for "angered" or
> "irritated") in a British publication in 1941. I would have thought that an
> American expression, especially given that "tick" is often used in British
> English for what Americans call "check mark", and "ticked off" thus more
> often means "checked off", as on a list.  The British publication putting
> it in quotation marks suggests it was seen as slangish or non-native, so
> maybe it was borrowed from American military lingo?  There were American
> and partly-American volunteer forces in the UK by at least as early as
> 1940; the US began officially supplying aid to the UK in March 1941.
> On Mon, May 18, 2020 at 1:49 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <
> adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> [...]
> > [ref] 1941 July 31, The West Sussex Gazette, Our Comment and Gossip:
> > Things in General, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Sussex, England. (British
> > Newspaper Archive) [/ref]
> >
> > [Begin excerpt]
> > The story is told of an English master from a high school who was
> > called up, received a commission, and found himself in official
> > correspondence over military matters with a superior officer. The
> > superior, who was something of a martinet, precise in matters of
> > composition, "ticked off" his junior for ending a sentence with a
> > preposition.
> [...]
> > [End excerpt]
> >
> [...]
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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