words AND booze? oh, dailysalad, will you ever stop sharing the love?

January 28, 2007

The main page of the OED website has a list of featured new additions. I usually don’t scroll down my browser window, so I usually only see the first two, “insourcing,” (which I first learned from Thomas Friedman, although the definition he gave is different from that cited by the OED. The OED renders,Chiefly U.S. The action of undertaking work outsourced by another (esp. foreign) company,” while Friedman gave me some malarkey about FedEx taking over the world), and “poptastic.” Today I noticed that “silver bullet” was one of the featured words.

Definition 1, is “A bullet made of silver. Freq. with reference to the folk tradition that such a bullet can harm a werewolf (or other supernatural being) whereas an ordinary bullet cannot.” While the first quote is from 1678, the word only entered the dictionary in 2006. This makes sense; silver bullet is TWO words; an adjective and a noun. But, in folklore, a silver bullet really is something special, so I understand why someone might want to highlight its role. Besides, after the great Oxford-town werewolf invasion of ’03, the OED staff wants to be sure that their slavish quote-assemblers have silver bullets on the brain, and know what to do.

Definition 1b, is a (fig), a magic bullet; a simple, miraculous solution to a problem. Another feather in silver bullet’s cap, but again, not really substantial enough to merit its inclusion as anything other than a variant of magic bullet.

Definition 2 is a rare form that I for one miss considerably. “In pl. Originally: civilian money invested in a war effort; war securities. In later use chiefly: money used to achieve military aims, as an alternative or adjunct to direct military action. Now rare.” Here’s a Times quote to clarify: “1942 N.Y. Times 21 Jan. 1/7 Thailand capitulated with scarcely a shot fired… Air bases and supply depots sprang up so quickly that many observers suspected the conquest was made with ‘silver bullets’.” That’s really quite an interesting usage, and its bizarre that its gone out of currency considering the number of paramilitary operations and banana republics we’ve propped up over the last 64 years (i’ll leave it to mandrake to write a blow-by-blow of US imperial misdeeds).

Definition 3 is probably the real reason the OED decided they had to include Silver Bullet.  “slang. Any of various cocktails made with gin or vodka; (now) spec. a martini.”  Has anyone ever heard this before? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone order a silver bullet at a bar. Is this solely bartender slang? Does this really happen “now”? The OED’s quote suggests they need to get their facts checked: “2004 N.Y. Times Mag. 25 Apr. 28/2 And when Richard Nixon said, ‘How about a silver bullet?’ he was offering you a very cold, dry martini.” Sure, the Times Mag article is from ’04, but they’re quoting Richard Nixon, who died at a good ten years earlier. And, my guess is no one would have been caught dead drinking with Nixon at any point after 1974. The word has swinging 70’s slang written all over it.

The only alcoholic beverage I’ve ever heard called a silver bullet is Coors Light, the silver bullet beer. This is also the only alcoholic def. given on urbandictionary (UD also gives this def for Silver bullet: “oval shaped, female sex toy with a radio control variable speed setting,” but after doing a little research, I’ve managed to ascertain that this is a proper noun, and thus the OED is right to exclude the device from its entry). Urbandictionary does have a great quote for “silver bullet” that suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the object. UD’s 4th entry is (here i’m paraphrasing), 1. Coors light, 2. “the only thing that can kill a werewolf.” Leaving aside the well-known fact that kneeling in place for 100 years cures werewolfism (OED finds this and werewolfery acceptable. i prefer werewolfitis), the UD author clearly misunderstands just what kills a werewolf. See his quote: “the werewolf was vanquished after he shutgunned a silver bullet.” as shotgun is a transitive verb, “to shoot with a shotgun,” and not intransitive, it is clear that our UD writer is a mixed up fratboy who believes that Coors Light kills werewolfs. Alas, it only kills common sense.

I guess it’s a good thing the OED decided to take on the matter after all.

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One Response to “words AND booze? oh, dailysalad, will you ever stop sharing the love?”

  1. codyhess Says:

    Also, shotguns don’t use bullets, they use shells.


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