Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 20:00:27 EST
From: AAllan AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
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 -
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
IlliniBam[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]yahoo.com