Date: Wed, 9 Jul 1997 13:11:48 EDT
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: Golden Oldies
Speaking of expressions like "shot his wad," which were clearly
sexual at one time but have become neutral, I was just getting used
to hearing kids saying that something "sucks" when I got hit with the
MCI commercial where a kid is calling another a "dork" -- which was a
synonym for "penis" when I was a kid in the '50s.
Another one of these is the VP "down to the short strokes", which as I under-
stand (and it's hard to think of an alternative source) is a metaphor for
the last stages of intercourse. A quick check of Nexis indicates 137 occur-
rences from various newspapers, of which the first few involved references to
the final stages of consummation of contract negotiations, legislation pacts
(in particular the recent agreement between the states and tobacco companies),
sales and other financial transactions, agreements over where to host the Super
Bowl, and so on. No awareness of the source is ever acknowledged--totally
dead metaphor? Fairly parallel to 'shoot one's wad', except that there's no
"innocent" original in this case parallel to the ordnance source in that one.
P.S. I agree with Mark's take on 'lay' and 'get laid': while Robert Baker's
classic 1971 paper "Pricks and Chicks: A Plea for Persons" (in Vetterling-
Braggin's anthology _Sexist Language_) lists 'lay' along with 'fuck', 'screw',
'do it to' [as opposed, of course, to the symmetric 'do it with'],
'have', 'bang', etc., with the asymmetric sex verbs (where the subject is
+male or, as Ron would remind me, +penetrator and the object = +female or
+penetratee), it changed some time ago for many speakers and is now role-
neutral syntactically, at least with respect to 'get laid' and largely with
respect to transitive 'lay'. I think Kim or Chris can also be 'good/nice/lousy
lays' with no entailments as to their sex or gender. One of Baker's symmetric
sex verbs previously unmentioned in this thread is the rather dated 'ball'.
For me, "Kim balled Chris" doesn't imply anything about who did what to whom
(other than that they went all they way in doing it). The more natural syntax
was "Kim and Chris balled". In either case, there may be a lingering implica-
tion that the participants were [+stoned], but that's clearly pragmatic.