connotation of “on a bender”
Posted: 09 February 2014 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  361
Joined  2007-02-13

Another question resulting from my early baseball reading.  In August of 1870 the Forest City Club of Cleveland traveled to New York.  They played, inter alia, the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, with the Atlantics winning, as was to be expected.  By 1870 the old social conventions of gentlemanly hosts and honored guests were wearing pretty thin, but they still popped up from time to time, especially with visitors from far away.  So the Atlantics invited the Forest City boys to attend the Atlantics’ annual picnic the following day.  The Brooklyn Eagle of August 16, 1870:

ATLANTIC AND FOREST CITY ON A BENDER--To-morrow, the Atlantics have invited the Forest City Club, of Cleveland, to join with them at their grand picnic at Lefferts’ Park.  They have accepted, and will attend in a body in the evening.  The is expected that all Brooklyn and New York will be on hand.  The “ladyes fair” will all be on hand, as Brooklyn boasts of more pretty damsels than all the Union combined.  Good music and fine dancing will be the order of the day.

The idiom of some person or group going “on a bender” to me implies immoderate consumption of alcohol or some other recreational drug.  This clearly is not the case here.  When and why did the phrase acquire its modern meaning, and how did this non-inebriated sense arise?

On a related note, there is an account from a couple of years earlier about a club winning a tough game and that night going on a “spree.” This was offered in explanation for their defeat the next day, and I interpret the “spree” as being synonymous with the modern “bender.”

Posted: 09 February 2014 08:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  6468
Joined  2007-01-03

The OED, HDAS, and Green’s all have this as the first citation for the drinking sense:

1846 D. Corcoran Pickings 62, I was on an almighty big bender last night [...] and the way we did walk into the highly concentrated hard cider.

They also all record the sense of an excellent thing, a humdinger from a few years eariler:

1842 H. J. Daniel Bride of Scio 190 in Eng. Dial. Dict, Ma vice [= fist] es wat I kal a bendur.

The general sense of a rampage or non-consumptive spree is a couple of decades later. From HDAS:

1862 “Barrett” East & West 50: If the Missouri should get on a “bender” as Charley says, I hope I may see it.

And Green’s has this:

1870 W.W. Fowler Ten Years on Wall Street 430: The bears were on a “bender” that day; the market was full of honey-combs, on which they were feasting.