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Posted: 20 August 2007 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Please excuse the subject of this thread! It’s been suggested on a non-etymological message board that ‘blow-job’ (fellatio) is a corruption of the British Victorian prostitutes’ phrase for the act ‘below-job’. As far as I can see the OED remains silent on the point (can’t find either phrase in there). Have I just missed it or is this another etymological myth?

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Posted: 20 August 2007 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I think calling it a “myth” would dignify it, since I doubt it’s widespread enough for that.  More like somebody’s cranky notion. Were any citations of the Victorian-era “below job” presented?  [Checking the web, I see I was too optimistic--this story is actually pretty widely repeated--always without evidence, AFAICT.  Several sites attribute it to a 2006 Vanity Fair article by Christopher Hitchens.  The text of the article doesn’t seem to be available on the web*, so I can’t tell if Hitchens was being facetious, careless of the facts, or actually had evidence supporting that origin--though I’d put long odds against the last explanation.]

The OED2 entry for “blow-job” (under the headword [no pun intended] “blow-") says “cf. BLOW v.¹ 33” (i.e. from verb “blow” in the sense “to fellate, to practice fellatio”, which is listed among the familiar air-moving senses).  The verb is cited from the 1930s and the compound noun (labeled “orig. US") from the 1960s.

[*correction: I found it here. Hitchens says ‘But it has never lost its supposed Victorian origin, which was “below-job” (cognate, if you like, with the now archaic “going down").’ So he too, simply repeats the story without checking it, or perhaps despite checking it--what are facts compared to a fun etymology?]

[ Edited: 20 August 2007 10:26 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 20 August 2007 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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with the now archaic “going down”

Hardly.  I was just at a wedding rehearsal where the wedding planner was leading the crowd of 20-somethings, their parents, grandparents and a sixtyish minister through the plan for the next day.  He told the 20-somethings not to lock their knees back because of the possibility of fainting.  Then he said, “I’ve had more than a few bridesmaids and groomsmen go down on me over the years.” The young folks started the knowing laughter and it rippled through the assembly.  The wedding planner corrected that to “I mean fell down.”

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Posted: 20 August 2007 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Also, “suck” and “blow”, opposites, can be used which is interesting etymologically and regarding the, er, mechanics of the activity.

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Posted: 20 August 2007 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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And there was a photo of Monica Lewinsky in Private Eye back then with the caption “I’m going down in history”.

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Posted: 20 August 2007 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Never apologize for such topics, flynn. If it’s a word then it’s the legitimate province of the board and some of our most instructive and entertaining threads have been a distinct shade of blue.

There was a popular expression in the UK when I was a lad, “Well, blow me!”, an abbreviated form of “Well, blow me down!”. Haven’t heard it in an age. I wonder why. :)

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Posted: 20 August 2007 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thankyou everyone. Dr T - thanks to your directions I have now succeeded in finding it in OED (I must need my eyes tested!). And I have to agree with Oecolampadius - ‘going down’ is entirely contemporary, and considered relatively euphemistic usage in the UK.

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Posted: 20 August 2007 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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FWIW, here is a discussion from the old site.  I see that EZboard has begun inserting ad blocks right in the postings.  Although I was kind of unhappy about switching sites just as I was closing in on 10000, I’m glad we don’t have to put up with that crap.

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Posted: 22 August 2007 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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(Cartoon seen in “Playboy”, or possibly “the Wall Street Journal”, many years ago)

(Lugubrious-looking gentleman is seen rolling his eyes, while being led down hotel corridor by bellboy carrying suitcase)

Voice (heard through door of hotel room): “No, no! Suck, Arabella, suck! Blow is merely a figure of speech!”

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Posted: 23 August 2007 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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In the field of Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) the two ways of delivering transactions to the host processor were (and may still be) referred to as sucking and blowing.

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Posted: 24 August 2007 03:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The Dutch equivalent is ‘pijpen’ which originally meant ‘to play (or ’blow’ if you like) the flute’ (cf. NHD ‘pfeifen’). That meaning is completely obsolete now and only the felatio meaning is commonly recognized nowadays. There is an often used phrase in Dutch ‘naar iemands pijpen dansen’ meaning ‘to dance to someone’s tunes’ (or more acurately ‘whistling’), where ‘pijpen’ is usually understood as a noun, viz. ‘trouser legs’. You may often hear or read the form ‘hij danst naar de pijpen van z’n vrouw’ (he responds to every whim of his wife), indicating a noun. It really should be ‘… het pijpen...’ but most people will avoid that form because of the sexual connotation. Googling learns that the ratio of ‘dansen’ + ‘de pijpen’ vs. ‘het pijpen’ is about 10 to 1!

A man and woman visit a marriage counsellor. He advises them to be more creative when it comes to sex. “You might want to try felatio” he says. The couple have no idea and the counsellor explains the technique “And then you say Honolulu” he summarizes. One month later they have their next session and the man appears to be quite unhappy. The counsellor is surprised and asks them to recapitulate what they have been practising. “And then you said Honolulu?”, he asks.  “Damn” the woman says, “I was so sure it was Casablanca”.

Never thought I’d be able to write this and get away with it (it ís on topic and it ís about words, isn’t it?).

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Posted: 24 August 2007 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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There is an often used phrase in Dutch ‘naar iemands pijpen dansen’ meaning ‘to dance to someone’s tunes’ (or more acurately ‘whistling’)

Thank you, Dutchtoo, inspired by that comment I checked in the OED and I now know, for the first time, why soup in motorway service stations is described on the menuboards as “piping hot”, something that had always puzzled me:

OED - “piping ... Of food, liquid, etc.: so hot as to make a whistling or hissing sound”

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Posted: 24 August 2007 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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It’s a charming story, Dutchtoo, but I confess that I fail entirely to see the point of it. i am an inveterately dirty-minded old man—but I can’t make head or tail (feeble pun NOT intended) of this story. will you explain?

(distressed, hangs head in shame, feeling an utter ass)

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Posted: 24 August 2007 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dutchtoo - 24 August 2007 03:25 AM

only the felatio meaning is commonly recognized nowadays ... most people will avoid that form because of the sexual connotation

While you’re explaining the joke, explain again how you can avoid the sexual connotations of a word that only means fellatio. (^_^)

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Posted: 25 August 2007 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Like lionello, I am baffled by the joke.

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Posted: 25 August 2007 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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languagehat - 25 August 2007 10:42 AM

Like lionello, I am baffled by the joke.

The difference seems to be between the use of the tongue in the phonemes “lulu” vs. “blanca” Hence the difference between “suck” and “blow.”

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