Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 20:00:27 EST


Subject: bong letter

Here's a message of inquiry. If you have an answer, please be sure to send it

to the address given at the end, since the questioner isn't on ADS-L. Thanks -

Allan Metcalf


As a student at the University of Illinois ('82 to '86), I became

familiar with the term "bong letter" -- a letter a student would

receive from a company saying "thanks for the interview or resume, but

we aren't hiring you." The term was widely used, and I believe one

bar even held a "bong letter night," discounting drinks for every

rejection letter a student brought in.

When I graduated, I moved to Springfield to work with the legislature.

I was assigned to write a "thanks-but-no-thanks" letter to send to

persons who applied for work with the House Republican staff. When I

said, "You mean a bong letter," my boss reacted with surprise, saying

she had never heard the term.

Since then, I have performed an extremely informal survey. While the

term is unfamiliar to many, there are many others who recognize it.

The term was used on other Illinois campuses and at least one in Iowa.

(I don't know if it was or is used at MacMurray.) I have never

pinned down the area of its use.

I'm even more puzzled about its origins. It's not in DARE, and I've

never spotted it in any slang dictionary. I'm familiar with the the

term "bong" for a marijuana pipe (from a Thai word for pipe), but I

don't see how that connects to a rejection letter. I've also heard a

theory that it comes from "gong" as in "The Gong Show," but, again, I

find that explanation less than convincing.

This has been rolling around in my head for 12 years! I would like

very much to know the opinion of a professional student of the dialect

on this matter. If you or anyone else in the ADS has any insight on

this word, I would appreciate hearing it.

Thanks very much for your time. If you or a colleague finds the

question interesting, I would love to hear what light, if any, can be

shed on the question.

Brett A. McGill