[Ads-l] "mug shot" (1935)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 5 02:11:34 UTC 2023

Here is a citation in 1867 that I think is interesting because it
illustrates how the term evolved.

“mugs” refers to the face of a criminal suspect photographed by police
for a rogues gallery.

Date: June 21, 1867
Newspaper: The National Republican
Newspaper Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Article; Attempt at Burglary and Arrest
Quote Page 3, Column 5


[Begin excerpt]
Justice Harper, before whom they were taken, sent them to jail to
await the action of the grand jury. Their "mugs" were photographed and
placed in the rogues' gallery among others of their prototypes.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, Apr 4, 2023 at 9:20 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> The OED3 entry for "mug" dates the meaning "a photograph or other likeness
> of a person's face, esp. in police or other official records" (def 1c) to
> 1887. The phrase "mug shot" with the same meaning is dated to 1950, but
> here are a couple of antedatings from 1935.
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/122288305/city-now-has-its-own-plant-for-mug/
> Waco (Tex.) News-Tribune, Oct. 3, 1935, p. 10, col. 2
> "City Now Has Its Own Plant for 'Mug' Shots"
> The Waco police department now has its own film developing plant, for
> finishing pictures of prisoners who are "mugged" by Lieut. Sam Fuller of
> the police identification bureau.
> ---
> San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 12, 1935, p. 17, col. 2 [Genealogybank]
> Henry Sutherland, "Previewed During the Week by Hollywood Appraiser"
> [Description of the film "The Case of the Missing Man"]
> Yearning to become an arty photographer, Roger gives up working for the
> gazettes and sets up a fancy shop. He's reduced at length to snapping "mug
> shots" of passers-by at two bits a copy, the payoff coming when his
> abandoned news nose quivers accurately and one of his pictures traps a
> dangerous criminal.
> ---
> There are numerous examples of "mug shot" from 1936 and later, but in the
> pre-1935 results that I've seen, "shot" can be interpreted as a past
> participle, as in "get/have your mug shot" (with "mug" construed as OED3
> def 1c).
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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