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Re: Wiping the eye

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 10, 2007

In Reply to: Re: Wiping the eye posted by R. Berg on January 10, 2007

: : what is the meaning of the phrase "wiping the eye"?
: : This is thw sentence in which I bumped into it: "Even at this moment there was something dangerously fascinating in the thought of wiping the eye of the whole x family and then daring them to do their worst."
: : Thanks.

: Wiping one's eyes usually means what it says: drying the area around one's eyes after a crying spell. If it has a figurative meaning, I'm unaware of one. In the sentence you quoted, it might be extended to mean encouraging the family to stop crying, or stop grieving, and jump into action. Does this idea fit the context? ~rb

It's easy to Google up tons of examples of the usual meaning of the phrase. But I did find this:
"the incarnation of little old England with her quiet ways and shoestring budget wiping the eye of great big global-tentacled multi-billion-dollar-appropriating America.
-Kingsley Amis, The James Bond Dossier

I had thought the expression exclusively British, since the next example I found was Northern Irish. Then I came across this, from a study of naval engagements in the American Civil War.
'The "Arkansas" destructive path.
I don't think it did any substantial damage, except in morale terms by "wiping the eye" of the Union Navy. It engaged three union ships....'

The OED has it--of course! With lots of examples.

s.v. wipe '[10.] d. to wipe a person's eye (slang or colloq.): (a) Sporting, etc. (see quot. 1823); hence, to get the better of, 'score off'; (b) to 'give a black eye to'. ... [citations]
d. 1823 MOOR Suffolk Words s.v., In shooting, if one miss the bird, and a companion, firing after, kill it, the lucky, or more skilful gunner, is said to wipe the eye of his disappointed friend. 1860 W. W. READE Liberty Hall II. 207 If there is anything, shoot first, old boy, as it's your find: I'll stand by and wipe your eye. 1869 Athenæum 14 Aug. 214/1 The personal question between the Society and its agents, of what is due from the latter to the former when its eye is to be wiped in the fashion above told. 1874 R. H. BELCHER Cramleigh Coll. I. 89 Hullo! Cheeky! it's Sunday, or else I'd wipe your eye for you. 1899 Spectator 18 Mar. 385 Never so well-pleased as when he is wiping the eye of the professional burglar. 1928 D. L. SAYERS Unpleasantness at Bellona Club xiv. 168 'I'm glad somebody appreciates me. Anyhow,' he added viciously, 'I bet that's wiped old Pritchard's eye.' 1929 F. M. FORD Let. 11 Sept. 187 He had only got me away from Duckworth in order to wipe Gerald's eye. 1949 N. MITFORD Love in Cold Climate I. vi. 60 At teatime the village policeman reappeared.., having wiped the eye of all the grand detectives who had come from London in their shiny cars. He produced a perfect jumble-sale heap of objects which had been discarded by the burglars. 1956 'A. GILBERT' And Death came Too xiv. 146 Eventually he agreed to take the case (his heel of Achilles being an inability to pass up a chance of wiping the official eye)."