“blank” for swear words
Posted: 11 October 2016 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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There was a choice bit of base ball gossip recalled by the spring race meeting here during the past week, which, though it is slightly antiquated, is spicy enough to be retold, especially as it concerns a character prominent in turf circles and at present stopping in the city.  It was in the days when players would sell a game for a consideration, which, to say the least, would not overweight them when divided. The story-teller is an old base-ball man himself, and in a week from now will be following the fortunes of the turf in some distant city.  He didn’t like to be particular because the subject was a tricklish [sic] one and he swore the Post-Dispatch to secrecy as to names before relating the incident.  One of the clubs concerned was the old Mutuals and there were two players on the nine, one of whom has already been spoken of as the now racing man.  One of these was a catcher and the other was in the field.  The two, the story runs, were trying to sell out to the club opposing them in a game in which Bob Ferguson acted as umpire.  A man was coming home from third, the ball reached the catcher’s hands in time to make a dead out but the catcher stepped aside and allowed him to come in.  Ferguson saw the play and called the man out.  The catcher objected in language anything but pleasant to the ear and Bob replied by breaking his arm with a bat.  This moved the fielder to utter his sentiments on the question but Ferguson’s reply was “Yes, and you crooked blank blank blank come in here and I’ll break your arm too.” Source:  St. Louis Post-Dispatch June 12, 1886

This was an actual occurrence, in a game played in New York between the Baltimore and Mutual clubs July 24, 1873.  It is remembered as an example of Ferguson’s temper, which was prominent.  One Baltimore paper complained about Ferguson’s umpiring being biased in favor of the Mutuals.  Usually this sort of complaint is just background noise.  So are claims about game-fixing, which did occur but not nearly so often as did accusations of game fixing.  This would seem to be a peculiar case of both going on simultaneously, the umpire ruling to offset the intentionally poor play.

But what is of interest here is the use of “blank blank blank” as a journalistic nicety.  Dashes in place of unprintable words were common, sometimes with the first and last letter left in place so that we could be sure what was meant.  I don’t recall seeing the actual word “blank” used this way this early.

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Posted: 11 October 2016 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The OED has citations of “blank” written out instead of the dashes, etc., used to denote omitted names or words from 1773 (O. Goldsmith She stoops to Conquer v. 106 Anthony Lumpkin, Esquire, of BLANK place.) [This being a play, perhaps it was so written to emphasize that the actor was supposed to say “blank” rather than pausing, etc.] and “blank” as a euphemism replacing profanity from 1854 ( ‘C. Bede’ Further Adventures Mr. Verdant Green (ed. 2) iv. 28, I wouldn’t give a blank for such a blank blank. I’m blank, if he don’t look as though he’d swaller’d a blank codfish.)

Woody Allen once hilariously satirized the convention of thus obscuring names (often all but the first letter) in old novels, etc., in one of his magazine pieces which was in the form of the diary of an artist.  One entry reads, “Should I marry M–––––?  Not if she won’t tell me the other letters of her name.”

[ Edited: 11 October 2016 12:23 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 12 October 2016 01:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4Zd-jIFioA

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Posted: 12 October 2016 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Needed more stars.

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