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You gotta have celluloid

Posted by ESC on February 21, 2003

In Reply to: Shoot one's cuffs posted by ESC on February 21, 2003

: : : : I am baffled by this phrase, which appears in Jane Austin-era novels: "He shot his cuffs." Any ideas? The action is often modified with "angrily" or "quickly."

: : : It's a arm jerking gesture that causes the jacket sleeve to pull up and the shirt cuffs to show.

: : ESC, I have just about jerked my arms out of their sockets trying to make my cuffs show, and it ain't happenin'. Are you sure about this?

: Yes. Let me give my references a little look see and I'll get back to you. Sorry I didn't see your question before. Maybe it doesn't happen with well-tailored men.

SHOOTING YOUR CUFFS - "goes back to the days when celluloid collars and cuffs were the salesman's answer to the laundry problem when on the road. With the high-buttoned jackets of the period, the collar and cuffs were all that showed, and since celluloid could be wiped clean with a damp cloth, a drummer of the period could make a shirt last a week. One of the showy tricks of dandies of the day was to 'shoot their cuffs,' which a dictionary of the period defines as 'making a sudden and ostentatious display of one's cuffs.'." "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

It is called "To shoot one's linen" in "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition). "To display an unnecessary amount of shirt cuff; to show off."