Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Linguistic Leaping of Laccifer Lacca

In doing a recent Google images search for "shellacking" I found pages upon pages of President Obama's face. I couldn't believe it. Not sure if you remember the hot topic of the press in November, but the quotation from the November 4th NPR article below helps us to understand just how it is that "shellacking" came to mean "defeat"...

"NPR's Robert Siegel and Michele Norris contemplate the word "shellacking" as used by President Obama on Wednesday, in talking about the election successes by Republicans in the midterm contests. How did the name of a substance used to provide the final coat on paint or other surfaces come to be used to express a drubbing?

SIEGEL: So how did shellac make the linguistic leap to defeat? Jesse Sheidlower, of the Oxford English Dictionary, was half-expecting our call about this today. But he didn't find a definitive answer. He ruled out origins in sports. And he said shellac smelled of alcohol and became slang for drunk. He says it was prison slang.

NORRIS: From crime to politics, meaning washed up or trounced - which is, in case you missed it, exactly what happened to the Democratic Party in Tuesday's elections."


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