a copper-bottomed shit
Posted: 29 August 2013 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]
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From Three Cheers for the U.K. Parliament and the British Public on Syria : The New Yorker links to a Spectator reference to one Miliband.

Apparently ‘’a copper-bottomed shit’’ is not a kind thing to call someone but I don’t quite understand as copper bottomed was once a selling point for a popular US cookware.

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Posted: 29 August 2013 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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’Copper-bottomed’ originally referred to ships that had been protected against the teredo worm, a marine pest that burrowed through wooden ships’ timbers, by the parts below the waterline being sheathed in copper. As such ships were sounder, more durable and less likely to sink, ‘copper-bottomed’ rapidly (first citation in the OED in 1814) acquired the figurative meaning ‘thoroughly sound, genuine, authentic, reliable’. More recently, it has been used to mean ‘totally, 100%’ anything, whether good or bad. One can be thoroughly, genuinely, authentically and reliably a shit just as much as one can be something good.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Housewife:  “Are you aluminiuming ‘em, my man?”

Tinker: “No, I’m copper-bottoming ‘em, mum!”

[guaranteed to become unpronounceable after the third vodka. A better, more practical test for ebriety than “the Leith police dismisseth us”, which I can’t pronounce cold sober, let alone after three vodkas)

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Posted: 30 August 2013 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve heard the expression but never thought about it. Thanks, Syntinen - just the sort of response that makes this board a pleasure.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Interesting that The Guardian feels comfortable in printing the Big Three in full, rather than obscuring them for instance with dashes or asterisks as might once have been done.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/29/syria-ed-miliband-succour-assad
A government source told the Times on Wednesday night: “No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a fucking cunt and a copper-bottomed shit.”

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Posted: 30 August 2013 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The Romans said tempora mutantur, but in point of fact, does The Times print those words in full, too?

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Posted: 30 August 2013 09:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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From the Latin meaning mutant tempura.
But it appears the Times fugit on this occasion.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 11:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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According to The Phrase Finder, there’s an earlier citation of “copper-bottomed”:

The method was successful in protecting ships’ timbers and in increasing speed and manoeuvrability and soon became widely used. This piece from The London Magazine, March 1781, records the introduction of its use on all the ships of the Royal Navy:

Admiral Keppel made a remark upon copper bottomed ships. He said they gave additional strength to the navy and he reproached Lord Sandwich with having refused to sheath only a few ships with copper at his request, when he had since ordered the whole navy to be sheathed.

I wonder whether the reference to the angel at “Paff’s” is in the literal, rather than the figurative sense.  Pfaff’s was a beer cellar in Broadway, New York which seems to have been a lively place to hang out.  The angel might have been a figurehead or it might be referring to the copper-bottomed (are or were they copper-bottomed - zythophile?) vats of beer stored in the basement.  I couldn’t find a picture but maybe there’s one out there. Take a look here.

[ Edited: 31 August 2013 03:57 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 31 August 2013 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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According to The Phrase Finder, there’s an earlier citation of “copper-bottomed”:

The method was successful in protecting ships’ timbers and in increasing speed and manoeuvrability and soon became widely used. This piece from The London Magazine, March 1781, records the introduction of its use on all the ships of the Royal Navy:

Admiral Keppel made a remark upon copper bottomed ships. He said they gave additional strength to the navy and he reproached Lord Sandwich with having refused to sheath only a few ships with copper at his request, when he had since ordered the whole navy to be sheathed.

Well, given that copper sheathing had been about since the 1760s, you’d certainly expect the literal sense to have been current ever since then. The surprise really is that the figurative sense hasn’t been sighted any earlier than 1814. (And unless this angel, whatever it was, really did literally have a copper bottom, it is figurative.)

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Posted: 31 August 2013 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Is there something euphonious about this phrase because “Copper-bottomed ship” elides nicely into “copper-bottomed shit” or am I stating the unstated obvious.

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Posted: 31 August 2013 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Well, given that copper sheathing had been about since the 1760s, you’d certainly expect the literal sense to have been current ever since then.

Er, yes, you would.  The 1781 citation predates the OED’s 1795.  There may well be earlier still.

The surprise really is that the figurative sense hasn’t been sighted any earlier than 1814.

Not really.  The figurative sense of a word or phrase usually, though not invariably, follows the literal sense and not necessarily soon after.  My post was intended to merely provide more information, not to take the gloss off your post, so I’m sorry it provoked a defensive reaction ("Well, given ... certainly ...).

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