phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Making a pass

Posted by Parthian on May 19, 2007

In Reply to: Making a pass posted by Smokey Stover on May 17, 2007

: : : There's a whole series of phrases I can't seem to find origins for, all dealing with a similar topic:

: : : - Making a pass at someone
: : : - Making a play at someone
: : : - Hitting on someone

: : : Any thoughts?

: : Let's start with no. 1, Making a pass at someone.

: : Although I did not find this usage in the OED (probably through oversight), I believe that "take a pass at something," or "make a pass at something," can be used to mean make an effort, give it a try.

: : This would be consonant with the use of "pass" in fencing, meaning "make a lunge or thrust." The OED gives as examples:
: : 1604 SHAKESPEARE Haml. V. ii. 126 In a dozen passes betweene your selfe and him, hee shall not exceede you three hits. a1616 SHAKESPEARE Merry W. II. i. 211 In these times you stand on distance: your Passes, Stoccado's, and I know not what.

: : In U.S. slang the entire phrase, "make a pass at someone," has two separate meanings. The first is to attack. In the words of the OED,

: : "A threat of violence; an attempt to hit someone. Chiefly in to make a pass at.
: : 1900 'J. FLYNT' & 'F. WALTON' Powers that Prey 156 It's time 't you get your graft in elsewhere. I ain't makin' no passes at you nor nothin', but if you sprint, you can catch that seven-thirty this evenin'. 1908 in G. H. Fleming Unforgettable Season 57 McGann..made a vicious pass at the Giants' manager. 1935 D. LAMSON We who are about to Die xi. 187 'Why you lyin' so-an'-so,' he says... An' he makes a pass at me. 1973 Playboy Jan. 240 'I could kill you, you know.' 'I don't know any such fuckin' thing... You ever made a pass at me, well, you better make a good one is all.'

: : The OED also uses the version associated with what we may call rude courtship, which became literary with Dorothy Parker:

: : "b. colloq. (orig. U.S.). An amorous or sexual advance. Also fig. Chiefly in to make a pass at.
: : 1925 D. PARKER in World (N.Y.) 16 Aug. 3E/1 News Item... Men seldom make passes At girls who wear glasses...."

: : I think I see the connections that made this use possible, once you accept that a lunge and an effort have been encompassed by this word for a long time.
: **********************************************************************
: No. 2, Make a play for someone.

: The OED places this under the general rubric:

: II. Exercise or action for enjoyment or recreation, and related senses.

: Under that rubric is included:
: "15. a. slang (orig. U.S.). An attempt to achieve or gain something; a move, a manoeuvre, a venture; spec. (a) Baseball, an action in which a player is put out; (b) N. Amer. Sport, an attacking move in a team game; (c) an attempt to sexually attract another person. Freq. in to make a play (for)."

: You are interested in category (c), for which the OED provides these citations and more.

: 1905 'H. MCHUGH' Get Next! 75 His intentions are honorable and he wishes to prove them so by shooting his lady love if she renigs when he makes a play for her hand...1943 D. POWELL Time to be Born vi. 132 If you were twenty years younger I'd make a play for you, no fooling. 1961 P. FIELD Rattlesnake Ridge xiv. 170 It's the second time War Ax hands made a play for that money. 1966 P. G. WODEHOUSE Plum Pie i. 26 Grab the girl while the grabbing's good, because..your nephew Bertram is making a heavy play in her direction...."
: *************************************************************

: Hitting on a girl. I can't find any straight line between this and the other uses of the verb "hit." You are referring, of course, to the meani ng: make a romantic or sexual advance on someone. The OED cites as their first printed example, "1959 Esquire Nov. 70 To hit on a chick means to try and get intimate with her." By his need to explain the phrase the author indicates that it is somewhat new.

: When you hit on a girl, you impinge on her, or on her space, if you like. That's the nearest I can come to explaining "Why hit?"
: SS

:but you can hit a 'home run' or a 'bull's-eye'and you 'score'?maybe?