come to mean "defeat"?
Was shellc'ing myself the other nite, when SWMBO stuck her head in the
gara^H^H^H^Hshop and asked when I would be done. "As soon as I finishing
shellac'ing.", said I. That got me a'wundering...
On Mon, 23 Aug 2004 19:14:54 GMT, "patrick conroy"
OED doesn't really say. Here's the entry for the verb (with all the
cool typefaces lost, unfortunately):
shellac, v. orig. and chiefly U.S. Also shellack; pa. pple.
shellacked. [f. the n.]
1. trans. To coat or varnish with shellac.
1876 Scribner’s Monthly Feb. 488/1 It is made of plain white pine,
brought to a good surface and shellacked.
1881 C. C. Harrison Woman’s Handiwork iii. 139 Book-shelves have been
made of pine, painted in flat color or stained and shellacked.
1917 C. Mathewson Second Base Sloan 90 Wayne threatened to varnish or
shellac the paper so that it would turn the rain.
1969 Sunday Times 9 Feb. 58/1 They tend to wear dark blue silken suits
or little black dresses and look as if they had been shellacked or
sprayed with fixative just before they left home.
2. slang. To beat, thrash, punish.
1930 C. F. Coe Gunman iv. 53 These two bums that Lefty shellacked were
members of Red Karfola’s gang.
1935 J. Hargan Gloss. Prison Lang. 7 Shellack, to punish or beat.
1977 Time 8 Aug. 28/2 Pitcher McArdle was shellacked for..six runs in
the first inning.
Hence she'llac(k)ed ppl. a.,
(a) coated, varnished, or fastened with shellac;
(b) U.S. slang, intoxicated, ‘plastered’.
1882 Harper’s Mag. Oct. 688 The bedrooms are shellacked and some are
stained of a deep tint.
1884 F. J. Britten Watch & Clockm. 88 A piece of sapphire which
is..shellaced to a brass handle.
1902 Encycl. Brit. XXXIII. 419 The shellacked cotton, oil, and other
materials with which the transformer circuits are insulated.
1922 Dialect Notes V. 148 Shellacked, stewed, bunned, etc.
1935 J. T. Farrell Judgment Day i. iv. 85 You know, when I first found
out about how you’d get shellacked, I thought it was pretty terrible.
1941 Wyndham Lewis Let. 17 Oct. (1963) 300 The silly ‘toughness’ of
the Irish immigrant mass, shellacked into a sly, bluff, servility.
1948 H. L. Mencken Amer. Lang. Suppl. II. 644 When a novelty is
obvious it seldom lasts very long, e.g., shellacked for drunk.
Here's what I could find from "The Word Detective" web site.
" Shellac was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century and used
for making everything from furniture varnish to, much later,
phonograph records. In a slang sense, "shellacked" can mean either
"very drunk" or "badly beaten or vanquished." Both of these senses
date back to the early 20th century, but no one seems to know for sure
why "shellac" should mean either of these things. I would guess that
it comes from the fact that shellacking is often the last step in
furniture manufacture, so when someone is "shellacked," he or she is
absolutely, positively finished and done. The "very drunk" sense of
"shellac" may also be a reference to liquor so strong (or cheap) that
it tastes like shellac."
I suspect that some infantryman in WWI used it after surviving a
particularly brutal artillery barrage (commonly referred to as a
"shelling")--"The Boche gave us a fine shellacking" perhaps--and the custom
spread to denote any beating. As for drunk--hmmm--1935 or
thereabouts--perhaps during Prohibition some folks did drink shellac,
especially if it was mixed with grain alcohol and not denatured. The
timing's right. Or maybe that same infantryman after getting himself a
particularly brutal hangover decided that the hangover was worse than the
Or it might come from the solvent for shellac which can produce a heady
sensation if used in a small area indoors for too long.
"Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen." Ambrose Bierce, The
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