[Ads-l] Synaesthesia strikes ADS-L!

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 26 17:54:46 EDT 2021


I forgot that John Baker found an even earlier use of "schlong" with the
"messy stunt" meaning, from 1951.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2016-December/145706.html

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."


On Wed, May 26, 2021 at 5:33 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Wed, May 26, 2021 at 2:33 PM James Landau wrote:
>
>> On Tue, 25 May 2021 15:18:43 Bonnie Taylor-Blake wrote:
>> "The last slang phrase in the piece, which caused me to blush out loud"
>> The context is <begin quote>
>> I'm also sharing an example of an odd "a big megillah" from 1952, though I
>> don't think its meaning is explained correctly. (As a matter of fact, I'm
>> also unsure about the meaning of the last slang phrase in the piece, which
>
> caused me to blush out loud when I first saw it, but then I recognized
>> that
>
> the meaning may have to do with what the OED defines as "[a] foolish,
>> incompetent, or contemptible person.")
>>
>> To the lexicography of TV, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, packagers
>> extraordinaire of CBS-TV's "It's News to Me," and "What's My Line" have
>> included such mysterious coinage as: "A big megillah," which is TV argot
>> for snafu; "The show's a bomb" (flop); "Everything's Tom" (things are
>> unsatisfactory), and "Let's try a new Schlongg" (trick or stunt).
>>
>> <end quote>
>>
>
> Setting aside whether one can blush out loud, the item that provoked the
> reaction is an interesting one. Relevant to this use of "schlong(g)" is
> this cite that Garson shared on the list in 2015:
>
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2015-December/140199.html
>
> On Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 1:01 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
> >
> > [ref] 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)[/ref]
> >
> > [Begin excerpt]
> > 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.
> > [End excerpt]
>
> Garson was responding to this Politico piece I wrote at the time:
>
>
> https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/donald-trump-schlong-perils-of-vulgarity-213459/
>
> Looking back on this now, it seems the word "schlong" may have been living
> a double life. The use of "schlong" meaning "trick or stunt" could have
> been intended to be onomatopoetic -- the sound of slapstick, like a pie in
> the face. It's possible that this led to a verb "schlong" meaning "suffer
> an ignominious fate" (as discussed in my Politico piece) independent of the
> Yiddish vulgarism. Or perhaps more likely, the Yiddishism secretly informed
> this other more innocuous usage, at least for those in show business who
> were familiar with it.
>
> --bgz
>

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