Posted by DGW on August 29, 2003
In Reply to: Hell-hounds posted by ESC on August 28, 2003
: : : This term was originated during the Viet Nam war. The
: : : "Doom" refers to Da Nang Officers' Open Mess. The pussy refers to the model of a cat which was kept on a mantel in the club. When nobody was killed during the day's missions, the cat was set to face outward. If a crew was killed, then the cat was set to face the wall.
: : "Dogs of doom all howl and moan" - that's how it should be. Robert Johnson sang about 'Hellhounds' - not pussies. OK so he might have called somebody a 'hell-cat', but it's not so ingrained in folklore.
: What started the discussion was this (from information about another phrase, "Whole nine yards":
: The earliest known reference to the phrase in print is as recent as 1967 in 'The Doom Pussy', a novel about the Vietnam War by Elaine Shepard. In that context the phrase refers to the difficulties a character has with unentangling himself from an unwanted marriage. It isn't clear if the author coined the phrase herself, although the manner of its use in the story would suggest not. Ms. Shepard died in September 1998, so perhaps we will never know. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/411150.html
The book is semifictional. The character who used the expression in question (3 times in the book) is/was a real person who can be identified, but he (like Shepard) is now deceased. I believe that he did use the expression at the time in question (ca. 1964) and that it was the same then as it is now.