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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Etymology of the Day: Slapstick

Posted by on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, a slapstick was "a device consisting of two sticks fastened together so as to slap loudly when a clown or actor hits somebody with it, or to make a sound-effect offstage."

According to citations in the Oxford English Dictionary, it was also used to intimate intimidate children. From a 1907 story in a weekly magazine: "The special officer in the gallery, armed with a ‘slap-stick’, the customary weapon in American theatre galleries, made himself very officious amongst the small boys."

The most intriguing OED citation comes from a 1950 newspaper article: "The 50-year-old clown... said that when he bent over another funnyman accidentally hit him with the wrong side of a slap-stick. He explained that a slap-stick contains a blank ·38-caliber cartridge on one side to make a bang."

The whole article, titled "Clown's Pants Catch on Fire" is reproduced here.


Comments (7) RSS

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Maybe intimidate children?
Posted by k-dude on November 8, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 2
My high school woodshop teacher showed us how to make these. His version was a 2' piece of 2x2 with a 1/8" slot cut in the center through about 1.5' of its length. The other 6" is rounded to make a handle. The two pieces of wood smack together with a loud bang.

Nothing like a large group of high schoolers running around a room full of dangerous equipment hitting eachother with sticks.

And yes, like all shop teachers he was missing several fingers.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on November 8, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Why are we talking about "intimate children"?
Posted by NotYourStrawMan on November 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
psbirch 4
The paper linked has a number of interesting articles, especially the one about how Christians have no influence on US politics. Also, peaches for 14 cents a can.
Posted by psbirch on November 8, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Dougsf 5
That "apartment wanted" listing could be Craigslist Gold today.
Posted by Dougsf on November 8, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
@ 1. Er, yes. Fixed.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on November 8, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this

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