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  #1  
Old 03-06-2009, 02:51 PM
batsto batsto is offline
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anyone know the origin of the phrase "screwed up"?

Where does this phrase come from? I'm curious whether the 'screwed' part is in any way related to the use of 'screw' to indicate intercourse, etc., or if it arrived in the language some other way?
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  #2  
Old 03-06-2009, 03:04 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Looking through the OED, it originally mean "to raise prices."

Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
1631 W. BRADFORD Hist. Plymouth Plant. (1896) 357 He scrued vp his poore old father in laws accounte to aboue 200li and brought it on ye generall accounte.
When someone screws up your payments like this, it also screws up your planning.

The sexual meaning of "screw" came later, though the term may have affected the etymology.
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  #3  
Old 03-06-2009, 03:56 PM
batsto batsto is offline
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thanks...a woman got quite 'offended' when she heard me use the word the other day, which struck me as odd. She said that I shouldn't use such 'adult language' around children, which perplexed me, because I had never thought of the two terms as being related before.
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Old 03-06-2009, 04:41 PM
Manduck Manduck is offline
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The OED? "Screwed up" is obviously a slightly cleaned up version of "fucked up". That there was an old-timey phrase that meant something different is just a coincidence.
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  #5  
Old 03-06-2009, 05:24 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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From The English Blog.

Quote:
Obama is not the first president to use the expression in public. In an article written in 1990, William Safire relates that some people were shocked when George Bush Senior jokingly told a group of students at the University of Tennessee that some of them had their priorities "all screwed up". Safire explains the origin of the term:
Quote:
In World War II, the particle up used in combination with a verb made an impact on slang. Louse up, ball up, gum up, mess up, foul up were among the less offensive forms meaning ''to botch, to make an egregious mistake, to bungle, to err repeatedly.'' Screw up, in this sense, is first found in a December 1942 issue of Yank, and was further popularized in the 1951 '' Catcher in the Rye,'' the famed novel by J. D. Salinger: ''Boy, it really screws up my sex life something awful.'' The verb is both transitive (screw up my sex life) and intransitive (I really screwed up).
He concludes:
Quote:
In sum, the Presidential use of screw up, in conjunction with frequent newspaper quotation of the term with no concern for its sexual etymology, has legitimized screw up as verb and screwup as noun; this in turn may one day lessen the sting of the slang meaning of the central word without its gentling use of up, but let's let a generation go by.
A generation has gone by, and Safire's comments now seem prescient. And anyway, if Obama uses "screw up" on national TV, then it must be OK!
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Old 03-06-2009, 11:06 PM
batsto batsto is offline
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Is that really enough evidence to conclude that "screwed" means f---d? If 'screwed' is to be taken offensively, then why aren't 'fouled up' and 'gummed up' equally offensive, if they all supposedly mean the same thing? I understand the meaning of the phrases is all the same, but from an etymology point of view, was the word 'screwed' used to replace 'f--d' because it actually mean the same thing, or was it a harmless substitution like 'fouled'?
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  #7  
Old 03-07-2009, 03:30 AM
Manduck Manduck is offline
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Well people use "screw" to mean "fuck" all the time. They don't do that with words like "foul" or "gum".
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Old 03-07-2009, 04:13 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
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I've seen people use the term SNAFU without any issues. The F in SNAFU does not mean "fouled".

I seem to recall there's another commonly used acronym that has a "hidden" naughty word, but I can't remember what it is.
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  #9  
Old 03-07-2009, 04:22 AM
samclem samclem is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuanoLad View Post
I've seen people use the term SNAFU without any issues. The F in SNAFU does not mean "fouled".

I seem to recall there's another commonly used acronym that has a "hidden" naughty word, but I can't remember what it is.
Perhaps FUBAR?
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  #10  
Old 03-07-2009, 04:38 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
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That's the bunny!
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  #11  
Old 03-07-2009, 02:29 PM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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I've noticed that the phrase "screwed the pooch" has also become a little more common in public. That phrase definitely has sexual connotations. I don't know if the phrase predates the 1961 flight of Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom's Mercury mission, but I first encountered it in Tom Wolfe's book "The Right Stuff" in reference to Grissom's flight.

Last edited by cochrane; 03-07-2009 at 02:29 PM.. Reason: stupid shift key keeps screwing up
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  #12  
Old 03-07-2009, 04:20 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manduck View Post
The OED? "Screwed up" is obviously a slightly cleaned up version of "fucked up". That there was an old-timey phrase that meant something different is just a coincidence.
Yes, let's ignore standard research sources in favor of our own ideas on how things should be.

I didn't copy the entire list of usages, but the OED has a clear list of cites all showing how "screwed up" evolved from meaning of "raising prices" to "making things difficult for someone" to "making a mistake."

As I stated, "screw" meaning "sexual intercourse" came later. People were screwing up before they were screwing. While it's likely the sexual meaning of "screw" is why the phrase survives, the question was about the origin, not the evolution.
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Old 03-07-2009, 04:29 PM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
I've noticed that the phrase "screwed the pooch" has also become a little more common in public. That phrase definitely has sexual connotations. I don't know if the phrase predates the 1961 flight of Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom's Mercury mission, but I first encountered it in Tom Wolfe's book "The Right Stuff" in reference to Grissom's flight.
I tried Wiki for "screwed the pooch," and it is apparently too offensive to define!!

I saw Jack McCoy use the term On L&O, and I was astonished, well surprised as hell, anyway. Don't recall the context, unfortunately.
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Old 03-07-2009, 04:56 PM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl View Post
I tried Wiki for "screwed the pooch," and it is apparently too offensive to define!!

I saw Jack McCoy use the term On L&O, and I was astonished, well surprised as hell, anyway. Don't recall the context, unfortunately.
Huh. I checked Wiktionary for "screw the pooch," and apparently, the origin coincides with my "Right Stuff" recollection. It did originate with the Mercury-Redstone manned flights of the 60's and it was popularized by Tom Wolfe's recounting of Gus Grissom's accident in Liberty Bell 7, when the hatch blew off his capsule and it sank, nearly taking Grissom to the bottom with it.

It is, as I supposed, a bastardization of the more vulgar "fucking the dog."
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Old 03-07-2009, 05:16 PM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
Huh. I checked Wiktionary for "screw the pooch," and apparently, the origin coincides with my "Right Stuff" recollection. It did originate with the Mercury-Redstone manned flights of the 60's and it was popularized by Tom Wolfe's recounting of Gus Grissom's accident in Liberty Bell 7, when the hatch blew off his capsule and it sank, nearly taking Grissom to the bottom with it.

It is, as I supposed, a bastardization of the more vulgar "fucking the dog."
Wiktionary more aptly goes on to define it as:

BTW McCoy used "screwed the pooch" during a trial.

to screw up; to fail in dramatic and ignominious fashion

I say this without any vitriol whatever, but "fucking the dog" had absolutely no meaning for me. I first encountered this right here in this thread, and wouldn't mind not seeing - or hearing - it again.


BTW McCoy used "screwed the pooch" during a trial.

Last edited by BarnOwl; 03-07-2009 at 05:19 PM..
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  #16  
Old 03-07-2009, 06:56 PM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl View Post
Wiktionary more aptly goes on to define it as:

BTW McCoy used "screwed the pooch" during a trial.

to screw up; to fail in dramatic and ignominious fashion

I say this without any vitriol whatever, but "fucking the dog" had absolutely no meaning for me. I first encountered this right here in this thread, and wouldn't mind not seeing - or hearing - it again.


BTW McCoy used "screwed the pooch" during a trial.
No problem. I was using the term academically. I quoted (more or less accurately) from Wiktionary, Wiktionary just had a few of the letters in the vulgar term replaced by asterisks, but the general meaning is there.

It is not a term I casually use, not even in the Pit. I'm not likely to use that term again.

By the way, apropos of nothing, my parents absolutely forbade the "F" bomb in the house. I never heard either of them use the word. They weren't strict, but kept their language clean and expected us kids to follow their example. They were OK with "damn" and "hell," and my dad occasionally said, "shit." But that was the strongest word I ever heard either of them use. But it was OK to say "screw up." They didn't object to that phrase at all.
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Old 03-07-2009, 07:13 PM
samclem samclem is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post

I didn't copy the entire list of usages, but the OED has a clear list of cites all showing how "screwed up" evolved from meaning of "raising prices" to "making things difficult for someone" to "making a mistake."

As I stated, "screw" meaning "sexual intercourse" came later. People were screwing up before they were screwing. While it's likely the sexual meaning of "screw" is why the phrase survives, the question was about the origin, not the evolution.
Chuck--you're incorrect here. Usually you're correct, but not here.

Screw to mean sexual intercourse is cited in the OED as early as 1625(which predates your "screw up" meaning of to increase the rent).

Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
13. coarse slang. a. intr. To copulate, have sexual intercourse (with a person). b. trans. Usu. of a man: to copulate with, have sexual intercourse with (someone).

1725 New Canting Dict., To Screw, to copulate with a Woman. 1796 F. GROSE Class. Dict. Vulgar Tongue (ed. 3), To screw, to copulate.
The modern meaning of "screwed up" is just as Manduck and Exapno said--around WWII as a more polite form of "fucked up."
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  #18  
Old 03-07-2009, 07:27 PM
samclem samclem is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
I've noticed that the phrase "screwed the pooch" has also become a little more common in public. That phrase definitely has sexual connotations. I don't know if the phrase predates the 1961 flight of Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom's Mercury mission, but I first encountered it in Tom Wolfe's book "The Right Stuff" in reference to Grissom's flight.
No use of the phrase in print has ever been found before The Right Stuff. It is "said" that it was an expression used by test pilots in the 1950s, which would dovetail nicely with the astronauts.

As far as "fucked the dog," that expression appears first in the teens and was used to describe someone who was goofing off at work, loafing. It perhaps morphed into the "screw the pooch" of the late 1950s-1960s.
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Old 03-07-2009, 08:18 PM
Ximenean Ximenean is offline
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I'm a little surprised at all this. I just thought "screwed up" meant "twisted up", "in a mess" etc. No need to relate it to other, figurative connotations of "screw".
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  #20  
Old 03-08-2009, 04:21 PM
palindromemordnilap palindromemordnilap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batsto View Post
thanks...a woman got quite 'offended' when she heard me use the word the other day, which struck me as odd. She said that I shouldn't use such 'adult language' around children, which perplexed me, because I had never thought of the two terms as being related before.
There was a letter to editor in the Chicago Tribune recently complained that Obama has used the phrase "screwed up" to describe his handling of Daschle's appointment. The letter writer said the phrase "degraded" the language, but none of the newspapers or broadcasts gave it any thought.

It's all a mystery to me anyway, since the context of these words does not refer to intercourse whereas "intercourse" does and that's perfectly OK to say. "Daddy, what does 'screwed up' mean?" "It means to make a mistake." "Oh. What does 'intercourse' mean?" "Umm...."
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  #21  
Old 03-08-2009, 11:32 PM
MannyL MannyL is offline
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If I may....

When you are screwing two items together the screw needs to go down so it can bite into both items.

If you are turning the screw up it is not bringing the two items into contact.

Thus you are doing it wrong
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Old 03-09-2009, 06:33 AM
batsto batsto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximenean View Post
I'm a little surprised at all this. I just thought "screwed up" meant "twisted up", "in a mess" etc. No need to relate it to other, figurative connotations of "screw".
That's pretty much what my question was from the beginning--I know what 'screwed up' actually means, and I'm familiar with the use of 'screw' for intercourse, but what I'm trying to get at is if there is any legitimate reason to assume that the 'screw' in 'screwed up' is actually related to the sexual term.
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  #23  
Old 03-09-2009, 07:40 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MannyL View Post
If I may....

When you are screwing two items together the screw needs to go down so it can bite into both items.

If you are turning the screw up it is not bringing the two items into contact.

Thus you are doing it wrong
You may, but you would be providing what is know in linguistic circles as a folk etymology: an invented etymology that appears to make sense, but which does not actually conform to the historical chain of events that led to the use and meaning of the word or expression.

Quote:
Originally Posted by batsto View Post
That's pretty much what my question was from the beginning--I know what 'screwed up' actually means, and I'm familiar with the use of 'screw' for intercourse, but what I'm trying to get at is if there is any legitimate reason to assume that the 'screw' in 'screwed up' is actually related to the sexual term.
Based on its rise to prevalence during WWII, (regardless what other coincidental uses may have preceded it), and the memory of this geezer*, Yes, there is a firm reason to believe that "screw" had a sexual context in this phrase.
This does not mean that the act of intercourse was considered to have led to botched work. Rather, taboo terms--frequently based on sexual terms--are often employed to give emphasis to one's expression and using "fucked up" or "screwed up" originally provided significantly more emphasis than "messed up." On a sliding scale, "fuck up" would have been, (in the 1940s), the harshest possible epithet while "screw up" would have been been inappropriate for polite company and "foul up" would have been the minced oath that any preacher could have employed at the ladies' sewing bee.

* At the end of the 1950s, I'd have gotten a reprimand from my mother for saying something was "screwed up," explicitly because she did not want any vulgar or obscene expressions used in our house.
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