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Gunslinger
Posted: 27 February 2017 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]
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OED has the following as its earliest cite.

1953 in H. Wentworth & S. B. Flexner Dict. Amer. Slang (1960) 236/1 The gun-slinger will spend..his life behind bars.

Going to the Corpus of Historical American English (thanks to Dave for reminding me of this database and COCA) I see it has a much earlier cite.

1932, Robbers Roost (fic) “ he replied, sadly.

I’m only a wandering rider—a gun-slinger and—a member of a gang of robbers. And I was mad enough ....

I shall certainly be supplementing OED and the other reference sites I use with these two in future and it’s so refreshing to see that they are freely available to all.

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Posted: 27 February 2017 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Green’s Dictionary of Slang also has the 1932 Zane Grey story as a first citation, but I can antedate that slightly:

Johnson, George M. The Gun-Slinger. New York, Ives Washburn, 1927.

Some other early citations:

“I was interested in some of the words and phrases every last one of ‘em used. Such as ‘whar,’ ‘waal,’ ‘sartin,’ ‘howsomever,’ ‘gun-slingers,’ ‘bronc-stompers,’ ‘war’ (for ‘wuz’) and too many more to mention.”

King, Frank M. “A Cowboy’s Lament: These Bronx Westerners Go Too Far.” Los Angeles Times, 10 Apr 1932, pp. K3, K5.

“The character of the Hunter & Evans crew may be gauged, for when Chisum, his choleric temper boiling, ordered his henchman, Billy the Kid, to gather his choicest gun-slingers and wrest the cattle from their buyers the Kid refused.”

Murphy, Frank. “Why Cemeteries Became Boot Hills.” Los Angeles Times, Robert Speed, as told to, 23 Oct 1932, pp. I12–I13.

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Posted: 27 February 2017 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Oh for academic access! I’m going to have to splash out one day on Green’s, especially as I see the online version works out to less than £1 a week. A word in the right female ear may well bring a birthday treat. That or a tie and a pair of socks.

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Posted: 27 February 2017 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Google Books has it from 1916 - The Range Boss, by Charles Alden Seltzer. “He must have been a high-grade Gun-Slinger” appears on page 226.

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Posted: 27 February 2017 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Google Books has it from 1916 - The Range Boss, by Charles Alden Seltzer. “He must have been a high-grade Gun-Slinger” appears on page 226.

Nice find!

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Posted: 27 February 2017 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I pay for Green’s myself. Texas A&M doesn’t give access to that. But I have Proquest Historical Newspapers through the school library, which is great.

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Posted: 27 February 2017 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Worth noting that OED has gin-slinger from 1887 (for bartender, and a couple of years later for a gin drinker, hash-slinger from 1868 for a waiter or cook, and ink-slinger for a writer from 1887.  (And skull-slinger from 1706, but the meaning is unclear:

E. Baynard Cold Baths (1709) ii. 394 Rats-bane [a physician].., who was but a young Skull-slinger then.

I’m not sure if “skull-slinger” is here a jocular term for a physician, or if it refers to his previous occupation (Grave-digger?  Gatherer of anatomical specimens?)

Anyway, -slinger seems to have been a fairly productive combining form in the 19th century; so it’s not too surprising to find the OED antedated on gunslinger.

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Posted: 27 February 2017 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Looking up Baynard I find to my delight that he’s the original of the character Horoscope in Samuel Garth’s satirical poem The Dispensary. That poem’s importance in literary history is as one of the models, along with Boileau’s Le Lutrin, for Pope’s exquisite satire The Rape of the Lock. (I recall, before we were introduced to the work at grammar school, I always thought the latter was about a rape on the banks of a loch, Loch Lomond perhaps!)

Skull-slinger does seem a better fit for a grave-digger, but on the other hand from grave-digger to physician is a rather odd career move. My best guess would be then physician.

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Posted: 28 February 2017 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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From a letter to the editor advocating an expanded police force:

“...some lay up their treasures of earth in hidden places, but if they want to save them they will hve to lay them up in the kingdom coming if once the professional “gun-slinger” makes up his mind to have them.” St. Joseph (Mo.) Daily Herald March 2, 1891.

This is via newspapers.com.  It is a subscription service, but the price is reasonable.  I have found it money well spent for my early baseball research.

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Posted: 28 February 2017 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The OED has been antedated by over sixty years—well done!

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Posted: 28 February 2017 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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That is indeed impressive.

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Posted: 28 February 2017 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Skull-slinger does seem a better fit for a grave-digger, but on the other hand from grave-digger to physician is a rather odd career move. My best guess would be then physician.

It could mean a body-snatcher rather than a gravedigger. There were plenty of professional body-snatchers in the 18th century, of course; but it was certainly not unusual for medical students to forage for their own study materials.

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Posted: 28 February 2017 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 28 February 2017 11:15 AM

Skull-slinger does seem a better fit for a grave-digger, but on the other hand from grave-digger to physician is a rather odd career move. My best guess would be then physician.

It could mean a body-snatcher rather than a gravedigger. There were plenty of professional body-snatchers in the 18th century, of course; but it was certainly not unusual for medical students to forage for their own study materials.

That’s what I was alluding to in my second suggestion, “gatherer of anatomical specimens.”

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Posted: 28 February 2017 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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It seems we have five different entry dates for gunslinger, as of now.
Does this indicate that we can not rely on such respected and dependable reference sources, such as the OED?

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Posted: 28 February 2017 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The OED entry is dated 1900. You always need to check the entry date when using the OED. And if it’s old, you probably need to check more recent references.

As with any reference, you have to give allowances for editorial lead time. Words are always being antedated (especially now in this age of rapid digitization of archives). It takes some time for published works to catch up. As with any reference, you need to understand the OED’s editorial policies and its limitations and use the source smartly.

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Posted: 01 March 2017 12:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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aldiboronti - 27 February 2017 05:54 AM

OED has the following as its earliest cite.

1953 in H. Wentworth & S. B. Flexner Dict. Amer. Slang (1960) 236/1 The gun-slinger will spend..his life behind bars.

Going to the Corpus of Historical American English (thanks to Dave for reminding me of this database and COCA) I see it has a much earlier cite.

1932, Robbers Roost (fic) “ he replied, sadly.

I’m only a wandering rider—a gun-slinger and—a member of a gang of robbers. And I was mad enough ....

I shall certainly be supplementing OED and the other reference sites I use with these two in future and it’s so refreshing to see that they are freely available to all.

To save my life, I could not find the quote “I’m only a wandering rider--a gun-slinger and--a member of a gang of robbers...” on COHA. I clicked on search and on the number below 1930, but I did not see the quote.

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