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  #1  
Old 04-09-2004, 06:11 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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What's the origin of *riding shotgun*?

I predict that at sometime in the future, some errant etymologist will mistakenly claim that "taking a shotgun approach," in the sense of tossing out handfuls of shit and hoping some of it sticks, is derived from this column.
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  #2  
Old 04-09-2004, 02:38 PM
GRobLewis GRobLewis is offline
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Riding and other "shotgun" usage

Now, for extra credit: why are the little 2-room box houses common in places like New Orleans called "shotguns"?

(I know, but I won't tell until later.)
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Old 04-09-2004, 09:06 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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I know, too, but I'll let others search for it.

DARE cites the "shotgun house" first from 1936. I can date the term from 1903.
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Old 04-10-2004, 11:12 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Two-room houses called shotguns? That's bizarre. Wouldn't every two-room house or apartment automatically be a shotgun? I think you have the term confused with "shotgun double."

Either term is only properly applied to many-room apartments, even in New Orleans.
SPOILER:
Shotgun double: This means that the apartment is one side of a house that has been split in half. It is called a "shotgun" house because the rooms are all lined up in a row, which means that the resident must walk through all the rooms to get through the house. These tend to be cheap, but also make for awkward roommate situations.
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Old 04-10-2004, 01:08 PM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRobLewis
Now, for extra credit: why are the little 2-room box houses common in places like New Orleans called "shotguns"?
To continue this hijack...

Spoiler?:

Of course, usage evolves. A term may have originally referred to one thing, and then... you know....

I've heard the term "shotgun shack" applied to very small houses b/c you could fire a shotgun and hit everything in the house. The term is probably borrowed from an earlier meaning of "shotgun house", but I do believe (admitted WAG) it came to be applied to very small houses for this reason.

I hear "shotgun" used more generally -- original meaning, I think -- to describe any house with all its rooms lined up in a row (as mentioned above). Recently, I heard it used to refer to a style of house with a single hallway with rooms off to either side, but that's new to me. Where I'm from (small textile mill town in SE US where plenty of these are still in use, though no one builds them anymore) it means you have to actually walk through every room to traverse the house.

I've heard 2 versions of the origin. One: you could fire a shotgun at the front door and kill a man at the back door. Two: the house is straight like a gun barrel.

Never did like either of those. Seems to me "rifle" would make more sense than "shotgun" in either case. But "rifle house" just lacks that certain something.
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Old 04-10-2004, 01:19 PM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OP
So, by 1939 at least, the term was used in movies to refer to the stagecoach guard. When does it get transferred to the automobile?
There's a problem here. It's entirely possible that the makers of the film used a known term which applied to automobiles out of context in the film. So leaping from the reference in "Stagecoach" to asking when the transfer to cars happens is dubious.

The terms was definitely used by bootleggers in the GA mtns early in the 20th century, for obvious reasons -- you can't use the shotgun if you're driving.

Its origins before that... dunno.

Btw, in a convenience store a couple of weeks ago ran into a couple of old revenuers reminiscing over their methods and certain bootleggers they knew who were especially difficult to catch. I remember as a kid we'd occasionally run across long-dead stills on land my father owned. It's one of the few things I willingly romanticize.
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Old 04-10-2004, 03:16 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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If you've got a source from the early 20th Century, Thingol, please share it with us.

Note that we have a lot of related terms here. The the term "shotgun messenger" or "shotgun guard" does indeed date back to stagecoach days. The term "riding shotgun" however seems to come from the movies of the 30s and 40s, referring to the stagecoah. The first references to riding shotgun meaning in an automobile seems to be from the early 1950s.
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Old 04-10-2004, 04:12 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is online now
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"Shotgun house" may well be folk etymology. In his book In Small Things Forgotten, archaeologist James Deetz makes the argument that "shotgun" in this phrase is a corruption of a word that means "house" in some West African language. I don't own a copy of the book, so I can't check the details.
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Old 04-10-2004, 07:44 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bibliophage
"Shotgun house" may well be folk etymology. In his book In Small Things Forgotten, archaeologist James Deetz makes the argument that "shotgun" in this phrase is a corruption of a word that means "house" in some West African language. I don't own a copy of the book, so I can't check the details.
bib. What's your source for the possiblity that "house" = "shotgun" in some West African language? I know it was Deetz, but where's the cite you're quoting from?

I personally doubt the connection, but will post it to the American Dialect Society for discussion.
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Old 04-10-2004, 11:18 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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In Small Things Forgotten : An Archaeology of Early American Life, by James Deetz

From an Amazon search inside the book, p. 216:
Quote:
John Vlach has shown that a more likely possibility for the name's origin lies in the Yoruba word for house, to-gun, meaning place of assembly.

Footnote: John Vlach, "Shotgun Houses," Natural History, Vol. 87, no. 2 (1977), pp. 50-57.
There are a number of other references to shotgun houses on nearby pages.
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Old 04-11-2004, 12:23 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is online now
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I read Deetz's book last year. I don't own a copy, so I'm going by memory here.
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Old 04-11-2004, 02:04 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bibliophage
I read Deetz's book last year .
Damn! Now I know why you were always the terror of the board when it came to finding cites. You actually READ some of this stuff!
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Old 04-11-2004, 03:28 PM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
If you've got a source from the early 20th Century, Thingol, please share it with us.
No, nothing reliable, I'm afraid. Dunno why I used "definitely" there. Some of my father's older retired law enforcement buddies use the term and claim they got it from the bootleggers.

Don't ask me why, but these guys are always talking about where words came from. Don't know why I chose to believe them in this case (I guess b/c, like I said, I willfully romanticize bootlegging). They'll also repeat that jalapeno peppers got their name because Mexican kids would try them and holler "Ja! La pena!" ("Oy, the pain!", per their 'translation').

On this one, though, I figured they were talking from personal experience, but even if that's their memory, that doesn't make it reliable. Heck, one of the "Ja! La Pena!" guys worked in S. Texas!
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Old 04-11-2004, 07:38 PM
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FWIW locally a house is called a gunbarrel if, as above, you can see down the passage to the back door from the front door. I think the sense is more "straight as a gunbarrel" (ie the passageway is straight and long like a gunbarrel) than "you could shoot someone at the back door from the front door".
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Old 04-11-2004, 07:45 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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<< Some of my father's older retired law enforcement buddies use the term and claim they got it from the bootleggers. >>

I'm wild-ass guessing here, but it's possible that the term "riding shotgun" referring to an automobile was used in later movies about bootleggers and gangsters... That could easily conflate (is that the word) in the brain to actual booleggers' use?

I guess we need someone to volunteer to watch through some of the great gangster flicks like WHITE HEAT and PUBLIC ENEMY and so forth to see.
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Old 04-11-2004, 08:13 PM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
it's possible that the term "riding shotgun" referring to an automobile was used in later movies about bootleggers and gangsters... That could easily conflate (is that the word) in the brain to actual booleggers' use?
That's possible. Of course, the guys who talked about this were older than my father -- I imagine many/most are dead now -- and actually ran down bootleggers, or so they say and I have no reason to doubt them about that... bootlegging is very well documented in that area and there were plenty of "you remember that one time...?" stories that had them cracking up before they could even finish it, so it's not like they were sitting around yakking about "this fellow I worked with in Memphis, he said he knew a man...". Another reason I bought the tale, I suppose.

These bootleggers weren't prohibition-era mobsters, btw. They were rural people making cheap hooch, selling it in dry counties in the mountains. Natural selection made some of their descendants excellent stock-car drivers.

I'll be happy to watch the flicks, though!

PS: They also said that no one "rode shotgun" in the backseat because the bootleggers removed the backseats from the cars they "ran" in, and that this was why it was a bootlegging term.
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Old 04-11-2004, 08:15 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Thunder Road ? 1958.
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  #18  
Old 04-12-2004, 04:39 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thingol
These bootleggers weren't prohibition-era mobsters, btw. They were rural people making cheap hooch, selling it in dry counties in the mountains. Natural selection made some of their descendants excellent stock-car drivers.
Going back to your original post, I see you were trying to say that that was before the 1939 movie. That's not true.
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:01 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Thingol:
Quote:
These bootleggers weren't prohibition-era mobsters, btw. They were rural people making cheap hooch, selling it in dry counties in the mountains.
Ah, I see that I was confused, too, like RM Mentock. I thought you were citing folks from the Prohibition Era, which would pre-date the 1939 usage.

Summarizing, my research indicated:
- 1880s actual stagecoach usage for "shotgun messenger" or "shotgun guard."
- 1939 Western movie usage for "riding shotgun" on a stagecoach
- 1954 usage for "riding shotgun" in an automobile

So, my question for you is: When do you think your grandfather's cronies were using the term? If we're talking significantly earlier than 1954, then you could be on to something and it would be fun to track it down. If we're talking after (say) 1954, then it's not worth the effort.
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:03 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
When do you think your grandfather's cronies were using the term? If we're talking significantly earlier than 1954, then you could be on to something and it would be fun to track it down. If we're talking after (say) 1954, then it's not worth the effort.
Some of these guys would have been doing that work in the 1940s.
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:06 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM Mentock
Going back to your original post, I see you were trying to say that that was before the 1939 movie. That's not true.
Clarify, pls. What's not true?
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:45 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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A Cautionary Tale

"To all you kiddies watching out there in TV Land, remember, don't run with scissors, don't play with guns, and never attempt to reason backward from something you already believe."

Sorry bout that, folks.

I think we can pretty much toss the proof-from-crony argument at this point.

Like I said in my followup to my original post on the phrase: "Nothing reliable, I'm afraid. Dunno why I used 'definitely' there. Some of my father's older retired law enforcement buddies use the term and claim they got it from the bootleggers."

Thinking of all the problems. The biggest one is: Yes, these guys told true stories, but they also told stretchers. Can I recall accurately whether the old fellows were speaking from experience on this particular point, not just any old tale about bootleggers? No, and I wouldn't trust my memory that well even if I thought I could recall an exact conversation anyway.

I'd like to find some of them and ask if they were using the term in the 40s, regardless of where it might have come from, but I don't see a way to do that without planting the idea. And even if I could get around that, there's no clear reason to trust their memory about the timeframe, unless they can remember an event that would date the usage, which is hard to imagine.
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:55 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
Summarizing, my research indicated:
- 1880s actual stagecoach usage for "shotgun messenger" or "shotgun guard."
- 1939 Western movie usage for "riding shotgun" on a stagecoach
- 1954 usage for "riding shotgun" in an automobile
Just curious, what significance does the 1939 film usage have, in your opinion?

I can see 4 scenarios:
1. Writers actually knew something about stagecoach lingo, included "riding shotgun" b/c it was accurate.
2. Writers knew of "shotgun messenger" and "shotgun guard", wrote the line "riding shotgun" b/c it sounded cool.
3. Writers made it up on the spot w/ no reference to actual stagecoach lingo.
4. "Riding shotgun" was already in use in the contemporary lingo in re cars, they wrote it in (anachronism) either with or without knowledge of "shotgun guard" and "shotgun messenger".
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Old 04-12-2004, 08:40 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thingol
Just curious, what significance does the 1939 film usage have, in your opinion?
I thought it was the first verifiable instance.
Quote:
I can see 4 scenarios:
1. Writers actually knew something about stagecoach lingo, included "riding shotgun" b/c it was accurate.
2. Writers knew of "shotgun messenger" and "shotgun guard", wrote the line "riding shotgun" b/c it sounded cool.
3. Writers made it up on the spot w/ no reference to actual stagecoach lingo.
4. "Riding shotgun" was already in use in the contemporary lingo in re cars, they wrote it in (anachronism) either with or without knowledge of "shotgun guard" and "shotgun messenger".
I'm absolutely sure that 2) is true, and 3) is false, regardless of 1) and 4). 1) and 4) could be true, but we don't have any verification yet.

And one more thing, what exactly is the claim made by Partridge, mentioned in Dex's column? Which referece work is that, it doesn't appear in the list of resources at the end of the column.
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Old 04-12-2004, 10:48 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM Mentock
I thought it was the first verifiable instance.
Oh, sorry, yes I understand that. Was too telegraphic. By "significance", I meant, what can we deduce from that particular first usage? E.g., a first verifiable instance in Twain might indicate previous popular usage, one in Carroll might indicate coinage in that year....

I still have concerns about this from the column:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Column
So, by 1939 at least, the term was used in movies to refer to the stagecoach guard. When does it get transferred to the automobile?
Even given that other "shotgun" terms can be attributed to stagecoach lingo, usage of the specific term "riding shotgun" in the 1939 film does not allow the assumption that there was a leap from usage re stagecoaches to cars outside of films. It's entirely possible, as mentioned above, that "riding shotgun" has always been exclusive to automobiles in popular usage.

But maybe no one was making that assumption and I'm barking up the wrong tree.
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Old 04-12-2004, 11:09 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thingol
Even given that other "shotgun" terms can be attributed to stagecoach lingo, usage of the specific term "riding shotgun" in the 1939 film does not allow the assumption that there was a leap from usage re stagecoaches to cars outside of films. It's entirely possible, as mentioned above, that "riding shotgun" has always been exclusive to automobiles in popular usage.
That would be your number 4), right? That there were folks who were using the phrase in automobiles, and it was never actually used on stagecoaches. That's a fine distinction, though, and it seems more probable that it was observed in the movies and transferred to the automobile scene.

What does Partridge say, exactly?
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Old 04-12-2004, 11:17 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM Mentock
it seems more probable that it was observed in the movies and transferred to the automobile scene.
Why?
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  #28  
Old 04-12-2004, 11:27 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Citations.

I'll bet if anybody used it in the automobile sense before 1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald did. Who wants to read his novels again? There's not that many of them. Plus a few short stories.
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Old 04-12-2004, 11:55 AM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM Mentock
Citations.
If that's in answer to the question of why it seems more probable that people started saying "riding shotgun" in re to cars because of the movie, rather than the scriptwriters borrowing a term they were already familiar with which applied to autos, I don't take your meaning. You're going to have to get a lot less cryptic than that.

If you mean that we should expect to see other citations regarding cars, I don't see that this has to be the case.

But you may not have meant that. I can't really tell what you meant.

Personally, where I would look for citations prior to '54 or '39 would be in police reports and depositions of criminals. Lingo often slips into these. But no one in their right mind would undertake such a task, so that point's moot.
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Old 04-12-2004, 03:55 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Just to be clear: the references I found said that the phrase "riding shotgun" emerged from movies (westerns, natch) of the 1940s. On my own, I watched John Ford's STAGECOACH (1939) and found two direct usages of "riding shotgun", so I have found an earlier cite than the other sources.

I'm not claiming that's the earliest cite, just that it's earlier than the others (so far.)

There's no logic that could possibly get from the use of the term "riding shotgun"
in cars to precede its use in Western movies. Especially since it's fairly well established that the phrase was NOT used on the real stagecoaches.

I'm not at home, so I don't have any references handy, but "Patridge" is Eric (?) Partridge, a standard work on etymology.
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Old 04-12-2004, 05:09 PM
Thingol Thingol is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
There's no logic that could possibly get from the use of the term "riding shotgun" in cars to precede its use in Western movies. Especially since it's fairly well established that the phrase was NOT used on the real stagecoaches.
Huh? Are you saying that screenwriters don't anachronistically use contemporary phrases in their writing, or do I misunderstand here?

I don't precisely follow the syntax of that first sentence, but I take it to mean "There's no logic that could possibly get the use of the term 'riding shotgun' in cars to precede its use in Western movies."

It's simple. Dudley writes phrase into movie b/c it sounds cool, his audience will get it, and it fits w/ actual stagecoach lingo. Line does indeed sound cool, gets picked up in other Westerns b/c these guys are all watching each other's work.

Seems pretty obvious to me that the use of this phrase in Western films ca 1940 doesn't kill the notion that it was also used in some circles to refer to cars around the same time. I'm not saying that it was, but I'm not ready to accept films as source for the reference to cars just yet.
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Old 04-12-2004, 06:45 PM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thingol
I don't precisely follow the syntax of that first sentence, but I take it to mean "There's no logic that could possibly get the use of the term 'riding shotgun' in cars to precede its use in Western movies."
I think what he's saying is that it is generally well accepted that the phrase is a reference to stagecoach shotguns. You've made a case for bootleggers, but that's after the instance that Dex found.
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:04 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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You guys cut it out, or I'm gonna need an Advil pretty soon.
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Old 04-12-2004, 07:34 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
. Especially since it's fairly well established that the phrase was NOT used on the real stagecoaches.

.
I don't think that has been shown at all. Sure, no one has yet found a pre-car CITE, but that doesn't mean that term wasn't occasionally tossed around. In fact, since it is a logical term to use, the chances are very high it was. If we had a time machine, and coudl go back and listen in on every stagecoach related conversation, I'd happliy bet that that phrase would have been used. I admit that just because it was occ used does not at all mean that the modern term came from the stagecoach period, in fact I agree it likely does come from the movies.

There, my WAG was that it was a "false anachronism". Kinda like putting lot of "Ye Olde" on signs- where "Ye" where the "y"= a "thorn" might be correct, but the indescriminate adding of extra final "e"s is usually wrong. (Oh, and "ye and in "ye old" is pronounced "the" . "y" in this case= "th").
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Old 04-13-2004, 02:30 AM
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I suppose I can ask my father about the use of the term by bootleggers in the depression. He used to "run shine" back in the day. He also lived in my grandparents old shotgun house too. You could shoot somebody in the front yard from the back yard if both doors were open.

Where did the term originate though? Actually, I believe it was first used by the railroads. Shortly after the civil war, raiders were notorious for stealing from the railroads. They would actually have someone ride in the engine carrying a shotgun to help prevent trains from being robbed.
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Old 04-13-2004, 09:50 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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I believe if you'll read the works of Francis Bret Harte you'll find that he referred to shotgun riders in the mid to late 1800's. He was a very popular writer at one time (He worked with Twain) and may be the main reason the term spread across the country. He actually rode shotgun for a stage at one time according to him.
In his works for the "Overland Monthly" or perhaps any number of other sites you'll find references to "riding shotgun".

I still believe I first came across the term though in some Civil War documents. I'll get some quotes when I get back from work tonight.
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Old 04-13-2004, 02:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM Mentock
what exactly is the claim made by Partridge, mentioned in Dex's column? Which referece work is that, it doesn't appear in the list of resources at the end of the column.
It could be "I think I love you," (Partridge, Keith, 1971) but I doubt it.

(I love this board because I could ask for a show of hands of all the people who have read Partridge cover to cover and actually expect to see some hands.)

And I am not the slightest bit surprised that the earliest uses of "riding shotgun" came from movies. Screenwriters are often more articulate and creative than cowboys.
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Old 04-13-2004, 10:45 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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t-keela, while I have no doubt that Bret Harte made reference to "shotgun messengers," I would be very surprised if he actually used the term "riding shotgun."

It would be peculiar indeed in the etymologists had all overlooked that earlier usage.

Repeating:
-The earliest usage of the term "shotgun guard" or "shotgun messenger" is the late 1800s.
-The earliest reported (so far) usage of the term "riding shotgun" is 1939, to refer to a stagecoach guard
- The earliest use of the term "riding shotgun" or the earliest use of just the term "shotgun" to mean the passenger seat in a car dates to about 1954.

So, if Bret Harte said "riding shotgun," that would be an earlier usage and I'd be glad to have a cite, and we could confound most etymologists.
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  #39  
Old 04-13-2004, 10:55 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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Hey Dex I'll see what I can do for ya. You are aware that the movie "Stagecoach" is a movie adaptation of a story written by Harte?
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Old 04-13-2004, 10:57 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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Sorry, that was supposed to be a preview...I think what Harte said was "shotgun rider". Close enough IMO. But not to worry...I'll get a quote.
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  #41  
Old 04-14-2004, 12:12 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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IMHO, for what it's worth.....

Some day, I have no doubt, there will be a newpaper found from the 1870-1895 period, which boldly states ".......riding shotgun on the stage...." Or something to that effect.

But, as far as we can find today, and with all of the digitization of newpapers out there, including even Overland Monthly, we just haven't hit one yet. The strange thing is that we can't find anything before the 1939 "find" by Dex. That's a pretty long gap in the "word search" business. But not unheard of.


If you, t-keela could find it in a Civil War setting, that would be truly a marvelous thing.
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  #42  
Old 04-14-2004, 08:36 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Actually, samclem, I am sort of quietly proud to have found the STAGECOACH cite, because the references that I found all talked about unspecified "movies of the 1940s."

I blush to say that I don't have any Bret Harte works at home, but I did run through Mark Twain's Roughing It, written in 1871 and describing his stagecoach rides of the early 1860s. He refers to the person sitting next to the driver as the "conductor", handling the passengers, luggage, etc. in addition to providing defense.
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Old 04-14-2004, 10:55 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t-keela
You are aware that the movie "Stagecoach" is a movie adaptation of a story written by Harte?
IMDB says it was from a story by Ernest Haycox, Stage to Lordsburg. It says Haycox lived 1899-1950, Harte 1836-1902.
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Old 04-14-2004, 10:06 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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I am trying to find the Haycox story, to see what he writes. Online searches were not helpful, I'll hit the library in the next few days.
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Old 04-14-2004, 10:34 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Haycox wrote a story upon which the movie "Union Pacific" (Stanwyck and McCrea) was based.

Haycox was extremely prolific in the thirties.
All westerns.

A newspaper story in 1937 called him the finest writer of Western novels in the US at that time.
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Old 04-14-2004, 11:09 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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RM You are correct that the movie was based on Haycox. I should have said that Ford adapted some of Harte's characters into the movie. Although it could be argued that Haycox got his idea from Harte. In any event, Harte was very popular at one time. I have found several references to his writing in works done after his passing. I copied this paragraph...(edit or delete if necessary, Since it's just a small piece I didn't think it would be a problem)
http://www.filmsite.org/stagec.html
Quote:
The film's sophisticated screenplay by Dudley Nichols (who won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Ford's The Informer (1935) and was a frequent collaborator with Ford), about the perilous adventures of a group aboard a stagecoach across Indian country between two frontier settlements during a sudden Apache uprising, was based on Ernest Haycox's Collier's Magazine short story "The Stage to Lordsburg," (appearing in April, 1937). But it also bears a slight resemblance and was inspired by Guy de Maupassant's Boule de Suif (literally 'Tub of Lard'), the story of a prostitute (Boule de Suif) traveling in a carriage through Prussian-occupied, war-torn France during the Franco-Prussian War with refugees who are prominent members of the French bourgeoisie. Director Ford also wove into the story colorful Western characters from Bret Harte's The Outcasts of Poker Flat.
This is just one cite. There are some that claim he did more than just adapt a few characters. I've got some old pre "Stagecoach" movies. I'm going to go through them and see what I find. I recall one that had a young John Wayne in it. The movie was called Blue Steel. It has a character they call "The Polka Dot Bandit".
Now I may be wrong, but I think that was another one of Harte's characters. I'm not done by any means, so be patient with me guys. I'm doing this from memory and don't have a whole hell of a lot of free time.

I haven't found a good e-cite yet...been working a lot of hours. I may have to get into the books, (I've got quite a few) I know I've read it though. I do some amateur genealogy and have read thousands of Civil War documents. I know for a fact that soldiers/guards on the railroads were referred to as shotgun guards and/or shotgun riders. I'll have to dig on this one but I'm fairly certain I have a letter or a copy of one from a soldier who says to his mother (my 4xgmother) "we're riding shotgun...". He was killed and my 4xgfather went to Alabama for the body.

So as of yet, I've been able to prove diddly squat. This thread may die before I find what I'm looking for but I'll post it when I do. I don't wanna waste anymore good research time making excuses. So I'll check w/ y'all later.
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  #47  
Old 04-15-2004, 06:05 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t-keela
I've got some old pre "Stagecoach" movies. I'm going to go through them and see what I find. I recall one that had a young John Wayne in it. The movie was called Blue Steel. It has a character they call "The Polka Dot Bandit".
Now I may be wrong, but I think that was another one of Harte's characters.
I have that movie! It's on a DVD ($5.99) with 6 other John Wayne westerns, all about 50-60 minutes long. The Polka Dot Bandit was played by Yakima Canutt, who appears in some of the other movies--in one, as Wayne's "Indian pal Yak."

I don't remember a Bret Harte story that even featured a stagecoach, right now.
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  #48  
Old 04-16-2004, 07:12 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Sheesh! If I ever learn how to use my newspaper search engine, I'll be a genius.

By using the term ridin' instead of riding, I found an earlier cite.

27 March, 1921 _Washington Post_ "Magazine of Fiction" (a supplement?) A
story entitled "The Fighting Fool" by Dane Coolidge.
Chapter I, column 1--

Quote:
"Lum Martin!" shouted McMonagle, owner of the Cow Ranch saloon, waving his
finger in front of Benson's face, "that's the man--Lum Martin! He's ridin'
shotgun for Wells Fargo--or was until last week--and he's over in my saloon
right now, playin' solitaire!"
So, it looks as if those pesky fiction writers are still in the lead for
creating the term. You just have to think like them and use _ridin'_ rather
than _riding_. But I still won't be surprised when the term turns up in the
normal course of a newspaper article in the late 1800's.
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  #49  
Old 04-17-2004, 09:04 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Is that the Washington Post search engine, samclem? That's getting pretty early, almost back to stagecoach days.

It makes the claim by Partridge even more plausible.
Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
I blush to say that I don't have any Bret Harte works at home, but I did run through Mark Twain's Roughing It.
Did you find the thing in Partridge?
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  #50  
Old 04-17-2004, 05:17 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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I used NewspaperArchive.com

I subscribe to it for about $80/yr. It allows you to search a limited group of historical newspapers. And the search engine is tricky.

I also use other newspaper databases, some of which are available through my local Univ. (but not from home).

Hey! This is what I do for entertainment on a Saturday night! One, please!

I'm still not convinced about the Partridge claim that it was from stagecoach days. While I won't be surprised when it turns up in a contemporary cite, it just wasn't used much at that time. I favor the rising level of Western fiction in the 20th century.
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