Date: Tue, 9 Jun 1998 02:42:19 -0700
From: Bill King
Subject: Re: Tinner, tinhorn, Tin Jesus

Tinner means fake or substitute for the real thing. At the time, to say that
someone was acting like "a little tin Jesus" meant that he was pompous and,
probably, couldn't deliver.

Tin was the perceived substance of substitution, much like plastic in the 60's.

A tin horn is a cheap horn not made of brass and a tin ear can't hear the
difference. Hence, tinhorn = phony. In comparison, "brasshorn" wouldn't have
made any sense, nor does it now.

Yes, a tinner was Welshman, and this was certainly nothing to brag about in the
mining towns of Pennsylvania at the time. It was probably as bad as Irish, and
the Irish were stereotypically regarded as full of it, if my Irish relatives
were correct.

Gerald Cohen wrote:

> My thanks to the people who have responded to my query about the 1910
> baseball poem, particularly to Gregory Downing for his 6/5/98 ads-l
> message. His comment about "off the reel" meaning "immediately" is right on
> the mark.
> "Tinner" remains a problem, however. The dictionaries give "tinner" as a
> miner of tin, or a tinsmith, but neither fits the poem. In the context
> of the poem, "tinner" seems to mean "an unproven talent." The poet says:

> "Sign me up--I'm now a tinner/But I've trained with all the good ones."
> I.e., he hasn't played in the big leagues yet, but his preparation has been
> excellent.
> Here is part of the third verse, with the second and third lines of
> interest now:
> I can hit like Honus Wagner, I can steal like Tyrus Cobb,
> In the field I'm all the grapefruit [i.e. I'm the cat's whiskers], at
> the bat I'm on the job--
> Never entered any college
> But I'm there on inside knowledge--
> [etc. etc. etc.]
> So, "never entered any college"--i.e. hasn't played in the big leagues,
> "but I'm there on inside knowledge"---i.e., I've learned the game
> elsewhere. This seems to repeat his observation a verse earlier that he's
> a "tinner" but has "trained with all the good ones."
> Still, what all this has to do with "tin" remains a mystery. Maybe
> Jonathan Lighter has something about this in his files.
> --Gerald Cohen