wank
Posted: 17 November 2010 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The “wanhope” thread reminded me of this word.  OED:

1. Of a male: (an act of) masturbation.
This word and its derivatives are not in polite use.

1948 PARTRIDGE Dict. Forces’ Slang 203 Wank-pit,..a bed. (Air Force.)

Not in polite use in the UK, but in common use.  Can anyone find any earlier citations or is this just as the first quote suggests, Royal Air Force slang? And has the word crossed the Atlantic?

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Posted: 17 November 2010 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes it has Eliza!  Oh yes, it has.  I love the definition of “wanksmith” at the Urban Dictionary

Noun (derog.): 1. One who wanks to a degree that it could be considered a technical art.

I caught Jimmy Ipswitch in the toilet again. Guy’s such a wanksmith.

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Posted: 18 November 2010 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t know if it’s related or not, but a google books search led me to this note on this line of “The Poetical Works of Samuel T Coleridge”, published in the US in 1849 - The Death of Wallenstein - Act V scene 1:

“fast sweep the clouds, the sickle* of the moon”
...
*These four lines are expressed in the original with exquisite felicity.

Am Himmel ist geschaeftige Bewegung,
Des Thurmes Fahne jagt der Wind, schnell geht
Der Wolken Zug, die Mondes-Sichel wankt,
Und durch die Nacht zuckt ungewisse Helle.

The word “moon-sickle,” reminds me of a passsage in Harris, as quoted by Johnson, under the word “falcated.” ... The words “wanken” and “schweben” are not easily translated.  The English words, by which we attempt to render them, are either vulgar or pedantic, or not of sufficient general application.

Apart from that, the earliest I found was in a Leicestershire dialect book published in 1848

wank, s. A violent knock or blow

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Posted: 18 November 2010 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I think the presumptive etymon is Scots or dialectal “whank”, which is surely the same as the Leicester word noted by ElizaD above. Some sources say the usual spelling of the modern slang word was “whank” once. I think it is said to have been primarily UK armed forces slang ca. 1950 (Partridge et al.).

I suppose the German “wanken” is unrelated but I defer to anyone who is knowledgeable in German. Kluge connects this word etymologically (distantly) with Latin “vacillare”.

I don’t think “wank” is usual in the US although of course some know it. Possibly it has become known very recently via “Austin Powers” or some such thing, but I’ve never heard it in natural US speech myself. It was known to me only slightly (as one of dozens of esoteric expressions for the same act) in 2000 when I first heard of an alteration proposed for a revised edition of Jack Vance’s science fiction novel “Servants of the Wankh” ... to avoid offense or derision in the UK, apparently.

Here is a recent UK reference to this amusing case (there is also a “Wankh” Wikipedia page):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/aug/19/wankh-awards-rude-titles

No surprise that nobody noticed anything wrong with the word “Wankh” (which referred to a race of aliens) in the 1969 US, since the word “wank” simply wasn’t generally known in the US. I’ll bet the great majority of US-ans will fail to recognize it today.

Surprising to me, though: the book was published with the same title in two separate UK editions in 1975. Didn’t the UK editors have anything to say? Surely at least the title could have been modified (e.g., “The Servants” would suffice) to avoid any wrong ideas? (Other Vance novels have appeared under varying names.) Or maybe “wank” wasn’t universally familiar to UK-ans then?

[ Edited: 18 November 2010 05:58 PM by D Wilson ]
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Posted: 19 November 2010 12:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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D Wilson - 18 November 2010 05:42 PM

Surprising to me, though: the book was published with the same title in two separate UK editions in 1975. Didn’t the UK editors have anything to say? Surely at least the title could have been modified (e.g., “The Servants” would suffice) to avoid any wrong ideas? (Other Vance novels have appeared under varying names.) Or maybe “wank” wasn’t universally familiar to UK-ans then?

Wank has been universally known in the UK for at least as long as I can recall (a half century and more). As for the Vance novel the truth is that the equivoque in the title was never a big deal for British sf fans (and I’ve been a reader of Vance since the early 60s). The media didn’t pick up on it because sf was a fringe market until well into the 80s. Frankly I thought the decision to alter the name to Wannek was rather silly.

[ Edited: 19 November 2010 12:04 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 19 November 2010 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I think D. Wilson is right about the US usage. It’s not common over here, although in context it might not be noticed. Wanker is distinctly a Briticism over here.

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Posted: 19 November 2010 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The Jargon File gives a usage of wanker as a near-synonym for hacker (in the ingenious rather than malicious sense). I’ve never come across this usage in any context other than the Jargon File. It certainly isn’t used this way in Rightpondia as the usual British meaning would totally eclipse this sense.

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Posted: 19 November 2010 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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aldiboronti - 19 November 2010 12:02 AM

Wank has been universally known in the UK for at least as long as I can recall (a half century and more).

When I was a teenager in the British Isles in the mid-1970s (not exactly the UK), everybody in my school knew the word wank, and probably everybody in the adult society too, and it didn’t have the slightest trace of nouveau about it. I am shocked—shocked!—that it’s not attested in writings earlier than around 1950.

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Posted: 19 November 2010 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I can find no reference to a relation between German wanken and English wank. Its Dutch cognate is, well, wanken. This form is more or less obsolete, but it is the same word as modern Dutch wankelen. I could have sworn that would be a frequentative, but WNT says it was influenced by Dutch wankel ‘unstable’ which is not related but does have the wan- prefix we discussed before. It is also related to Dutch wenken ’to beckon’.

It is from an older wank which originally means ‘bent’.  This word goes back to IDG *ueng-.

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Posted: 19 November 2010 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Very interesting as ever, Dutchtoo, and thanks.  You reminded me of a long-forgotten Afrikaans verb “wankel” meaning move unsteadily. I’ve got a vague recollection that in the 50s we used the word “wank” meaning yank (Scottish or US origin, 19th C) or pull, as in “give it a good wank and it’ll move”. How innocent we all were, apparently.

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Posted: 20 November 2010 01:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’ve heard “wank” used in the context of moving (a pump handle) to and fro.  At the time I thought it was just an extension of the sexual meaning, but now I’m not so sure.  I suppose it’s impossible to tell whether it derives from the meaning that became the sexual meaning or whether it derives from the sexual meaning and is moving back in the direction it came from.

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