Friday, October 10, 2008

Daughter of a Pistol

I got to thinking today about colloquialisms. What exactly is the son of a gun? Where did he come from? And why is it a boy and not a girl? Surely if a gun can reproduce, it can have sons and daughters.

Why is it so normal for someone to exclaim, "Son of a gun!" when something goes poorly or when a discovery is found? My colleague and I got to chatting about it, and we decided that we want to replace "son of a gun" with "daughter of a pistol." Much more politically correct in these pre-election days, and it sounds fresh and new.

Since I was so curious, I turned to my good friend Google who referred me to Wikipedia. I know that Wikipedia isn't always the most accurate source, but they're usually pretty darn close. And they always let you know when they're unsure. At any rate, I discovered a few things. First, there are many, many songs that contain this phrase. My two favorite references are from "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" - " I told you once, you son of a gun, that I'm the best there's ever been." and from "Girlfriend (Cupid's Chokehold)" - If I had to choose her or the sun, I'd be one nocturnal son of a gun." (At this point, if I were blogger techno-savvy, I might attach a clip of each song...but I don't know how to!).

The other interesting thing was that the phrase is prevalent in both British and American English, but they have different origins. "In British naval slang this term refers to a child of questionable parentage conceived on the gun deck, hence 'son of a gun'. However, children born on board British naval vessels to enlisted men were referred to as a 'true son of a gun'." And "In American folk idiom (American), this term has similar meaning to the British one, but was derived from military bureaucratic treatment of young enlisted men of uncertain familial background." Isn't it amazing that two different cultures would come up with the same phrase in similar ways?

Check it out:

So, my goal is to forget "son of a gun" and go with "daughter of a pistol." Help me spread the word!!


Vegas Princess said...

I loved this! I always wonder about where sayings come from because most of them have true origins of something previlent in olden times. Like the one "rule of thumb" which came from an old law that you could only beat your family with an item no bigger than the size of your thumb. Or something like that. Weird how they turn into sayings we use today.

Anonymous said...

Witty! VP sent me! I was quite entertained! Never pondered that particular turn of phrase before... thanks!

jellybean said...

hello! VP sent me too! i love it! "daughter of a pistol"! it's great! i never thought of the phrase much either.but now it makes perfect sense! "daughter of a pistol" :) it's great!

Steelers Wine Girl said...

VP - I also knew about the Rule of Thumb story...I love learning about phrase and word origins, it's so funny to discover what they were originally used for

Shades & JB - welcome, and thanks for viewing me :) VP is the best to share her friends!

jellybean said...

sure! i had a blog forever that no one knew existed! when i finally tracked down shades and complained on her blog that no one ever read mine vp just appeared out of nowhere! bringing life to my non existent comments. and a friend or 2 along with her. so naturally i like to browse thru all of hers and shades peeps and see who's blogs i can and can't read. yeah, i have no life!