Posted by RRC on March 09, 2006
In Reply to: Getting the shaft ... sucks posted by Bob on March 09, 2006
: : : : : I'm looking into the origins of the term "to get the shaft", which I understand has something to do with the cemetery near the French Quarter. I'd like to hear from anyone who knows New Orleans lore and can verify the origins of this phrase. Thanks.
: : : : From the Online Etymological Dictionary:
: : : : "...Vulgar slang meaning 'penis' first recorded 1719. Verb meaning 'treat cruelly and unfairly' is 1950s, with overtones of sodomy. "
: : : I'm not sure if Brian is emphasizing the right meaning of shaft, but I used to live in New Orleans and I can't think of any reason why it should be related to St. Louis Cemetery #1. All the tombs are above ground as the ground is so wet that they would "float" up otherwise, ergo no shafts of the hole-y type. ^_^ RRC
: : the "treat cruelly and unfairly" definition is right on target. Because it had, as it says "overtones of sodomy," it was vulgar and not used in mixed company ... until the movie (and hit title song) "Shaft" became popular in 1971. Yes, there's some winking going on in the lyrics "Who's the black dick..." etc.,but it was so popular that it took the shock value out of the word. A similar thing has happened with "suck" and "sucks" which have become so widely used in mainstream publications that younger people have no sense of how rude that once was.
: I forgot to mention that the director of Shaft, the innovative Gordon Parks, died yesterday at age 93.
Not arguing with the meaning, but I've heard I got shafted and I got the shaft as long as I can and never thought it was "dirty" nor seen anyone react to it that it was not a "nice" phrase (and you can barely get away with saying "poo" in my family), so perhaps it's actually farther along in the "nice-ification" process than sucks. RRC