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Billdo
04-17-2007, 05:15 AM
In the classic column on holographic images (http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_347b.html), Cecil dismisses his clarification that holograms do not actually have facets but rather quasihyperboloidal interference fringes by saying: "Amounts to the same thing as tiny facets, but they look a lot different and from the standpoint of conceptual grabbiness they're strictly from hunger."

"From hunger", meaning deplorably bad or dreadful (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hunger) is one of those idiomatic phrases I understand in my gut (no pun intended) but it's sort of incomprehensible how the phrase came to be. It's never really used for things that have anything to do with the actual feeling or condition of hunger (see Cecil's use above). I'm guessing it is of Yiddish origin, because it has that Yiddishish feel to it, but a bit of googling arounding hasn't helped me to find where it came from (except for one tantalizing link to a subscription journal article I can't access).

So, from where "from hunger"?

Nametag
04-17-2007, 08:00 AM
Actually, it's "strictly from hunger," and it once alluded to desperation or poor quality. I agree it's probably Yiddish (being one of S.J. Perelman's titles), but it's also been called "beat slang" or "swing talk."

Elendil's Heir
04-17-2007, 08:24 AM
I love words and slang, and I had never, ever read or heard that phrase before. I came in here just to open a thread about it - and I'm glad that Billdo did!

Now I'm going to have to use the phrase every chance I get, so that I can popularize it:

"Plaintiff's brief was strictly from hunger."

"That oral argument was strictly from hunger."

"My last post on the Dope was strictly from hunger."

:D

Gfactor
04-17-2007, 09:29 AM
I'm guessing it is of Yiddish origin, because it has that Yiddishish feel to it, but a bit of googling arounding hasn't helped me to find where it came from (except for one tantalizing link to a subscription journal article I can't access).


If it's the same article I found on JSTOR, it just says the phrase probably comes from Yiddish without further elaboration.

Billdo
04-17-2007, 09:34 AM
If it's the same article I found on JSTOR, it just says the phrase probably comes from Yiddish without further elaboration.

Yep, that's the one.

And I know the phrase as just "from hunger", with "strictly from hunger" a variant (which Cecil used).

matt_mcl
04-17-2007, 10:43 AM
And I know the phrase as just "from hunger", with "strictly from hunger" a variant (which Cecil used).

Yeah, even without knowing the phrase I always figured the phrase itself was "from hunger," with "strictly" as a generic intensifier (as in "strictly for the birds" or something).

JeffB
04-17-2007, 11:47 AM
I had never heard the phrase before either. FWIW, the OED's definition is
U.S. slang. from hunger: acceptable only as a last resort; incompetent, undesirable, or contemptible; very bad, lousy. Freq. in strictly from hunger. Also (in early use): contemptibly, badly.
The earliest citation is from 1935:
Peabody Bull. Dec. 42/2 Playing (music) from hunger, similar to ‘corny’, meaning playing in a style to please the uneducated masses.

AskNott
04-17-2007, 12:44 PM
With no evidence at all, I'm guessing it's a geographical slur aimed at Hungarians. If true, it would align with the countless "dumb Polack" jokes and all the French=sexual usages; for example, French kiss, French letter, and pardon my French.

BMalion
04-18-2007, 08:43 AM
...Now I'm going to have to use the phrase every chance I get, so that I can popularize it:...

No Time To Lose!



:D

RiverRunner
04-18-2007, 09:37 AM
With no evidence at all, I'm guessing it's a geographical slur aimed at Hungarians. If true, it would align with the countless "dumb Polack" jokes and all the French=sexual usages; for example, French kiss, French letter, and pardon my French.

My guess, also with no evidence, is that it simply means that something was so badly wanted/needed (i.e., hungered for) that you took the best you could find or make up. Using the "oral argument" example that Elendil's Heir mentioned, it would mean that the argument was manufactured strictly for the sake of justification.


RR

Colophon
04-19-2007, 05:58 AM
With no evidence at all, I'm guessing it's a geographical slur aimed at Hungarians. If true, it would align with the countless "dumb Polack" jokes and all the French=sexual usages; for example, French kiss, French letter, and pardon my French.


I assume you're joking, right?

The "earliest cite" given above pretty much shows where it comes from:

Peabody Bull. Dec. 42/2 Playing (music) from hunger, similar to ‘corny’, meaning playing in a style to please the uneducated masses.

In other words, you're only playing this crap so that the plebs will pay you enough to buy food.

AskNott
04-19-2007, 11:18 AM
I assume you're joking, right?
The "earliest cite" given above pretty much shows where it comes from:

In other words, you're only playing this crap so that the plebs will pay you enough to buy food.
In matters of etymology, origins are rarely ironclad. In this brief thread, the OED says it's US slang and JSTOR calls it Yiddish. Your own call is not supported by the "earliest cite," which does not refer to playing crap to get food money.


U.S. slang. from hunger: acceptable only as a last resort; incompetent, undesirable, or contemptible; very bad, lousy. Freq. in strictly from hunger. Also (in early use): contemptibly, badly.
The OED's definition would mesh easily with an ethnic slur where Hungarian equals acceptable only as a last resort...very bad, lousy.

At least two other ethnic slurs are hung on shoddy goods; nigger-rigged and Jerry (German) built. Jerry-built, by the way, is not the same as jury-rigged, which can be complimentary.

In short, no, I'm not joking.

Elendil's Heir
04-19-2007, 02:23 PM
...In other words, you're only playing this crap so that the plebs will pay you enough to buy food.

Yeah, that's how I read it, too.

John W. Kennedy
04-20-2007, 02:50 PM
I am unaware of any relationship between "jerry-built" and "German", and the dates are against it, for "jerry-builder" is attested two generations earlier than "Jerry" for "German". You have also given no evidence that "from hunger" has any connection with "Hungarian" beyond your own fantasy, and I am unaware of any resentment from Jews toward Hungarians in music; indeed, in 1935, the date of the earliest citation, one of the best known Hungarians in music was the operetta composer Emmerich Kálmán, who was himself Jewish, and so beloved in central Europe that a serious attempt was made by the Hungarian Nazis to have him declared an "honorary Aryan". (Instead, he escaped to America; as a celebrity, he was allowed in; most weren't.)

Elendil's Heir
04-20-2007, 11:02 PM
There's also the jerrycan, which IIRC was originally a German WW2 design: http://www.adr-spierings.nl/algemeen/jerrycan.jpg