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Hairy eyeball

Posted by ESC on September 26, 2002

In Reply to: The phrase hairy eyeball posted by marina on September 25, 2002

: hi there,

: I never thought anything about this until recently - at work we hired a great guy from the uk. I used the phrase, "i'll give that the ol' hairy eyeball this weekend" on him and he looked at me as if I had antenna coming out my head! i explained it to him as best I could - but the more I tried to explain it, the more I realized I didn't really know much about the phrase. can anybody shed any light as to its origins and different meanings through the ages? as now I am curious! thanks! please email me although I will keep checking back as often as I can! thanks!

I'm not sure if these expressions are connected but I'm thinking they probably are.

EYEBALL -- Eyeballing someone is looking at him directly in what is perceived as a defiant look. Remember in the movie "An Officer and a Gentlemen," the drill sergeant said, "Don't you eyeball me, son!"

THE EVIL EYE - A certain way of looking at a person to exhibit disapproval or anger. Stems from the belief that a person's eye has the power to bring bad luck or destruction upon somebody." From Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner by Geneva Smitherman (Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, N.Y., 1994).

HAIRY EYEBALL - "n. a glance, usu. of suspicion or hostility, made with partially lowered eyelids.1963 N.Y. Times Mag. (Nov. 24) 'He gave me the hairy eyeball!'." From Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 2, H-O by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994.

A cultural note: a family member is bringing his Korean bride home to the U.S. this month. I was reading a cultural etiquette book and it said Koreans consider it rude if a person looks right at them. So we'll have to be careful and not eyeball her.

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