Old 07-18-2002, 08:05 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Houston, TX, USA
Posts: 12,259
arms = guns? (slang)

As in, "He's got a big pair of guns."

What's that all about? What's the origin of that expression? Is it a play on the use of arms to mean weapons?

And does it refer to the biceps, or the whole arms, or what?

[gratuitous complaint about the stupidity of the usage omitted]
Old 07-18-2002, 08:52 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 58,595
I don't know about that, but once I saw a woman with a nice pair of thirty-eights!
'Never say "no" to adventure. Always say "yes". Otherwise you'll lead a very dull life.' -- Commander Caractacus Pott, R.N. (Retired)

'Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man.' -- Lu-Tze
Old 07-18-2002, 08:59 AM
John Kentzel-Griffin John Kentzel-Griffin is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: New York State of Mind
Posts: 3,299
This is my rifle;
This is my gun.
One is for fighting;
One is for fun.

"He's got a big pair of guns."
That's not a tau neutrino in my pocket; I've got a hadron.
Old 07-18-2002, 05:42 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Houston, TX, USA
Posts: 12,259
Nobody's ever heard this? I first encountered it on a TV show, some guy bragging about the size of his arms.

I heard it again today on the radio, some DJ talking about Vin Diesel and his arms, "Yeah, he's got a big pair of guns." He was talking to some chick who was drooling over guys' arms.
Old 07-18-2002, 09:04 PM
Visual Purple Visual Purple is offline
Join Date: Sep 1999
Posts: 214
Any possibility he was talking about gams = legs?
Old 07-18-2002, 09:57 PM
Opus1 Opus1 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Tucson, AZ, USA
Posts: 1,242
Well, guns have been known as firearms for a long time, so it doesn't take much imagination to switch the terms and call your arms guns. I've heard it mainly in a baseball context, where a player is said to have a gun (or a cannon) for an arm, reflecting the fact that he can throw a ball fast and straight like a bullet out of a gun.
Old 07-19-2002, 01:23 AM
buckgully buckgully is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 815
Having arms described as "guns" was not unknown in northeastern Wisconsin, at least in the late 80's to early 90's. It wasn't used all that frequently, however. I can recall several incidents of this, usually involving cheerleaders and games that required arm strength, like swimming or volleyball.

I can remember at least once incident where someone from the suburbs of Chicago (Hinsdale, IIRC) being very confused at the term. I never thought that it might not be a particularly widespread usage, as confusing someone from the suburbs of Chicago is not a particularly difficult feat.

It would be similar to the "gams = legs" slang, except that it's more current. Usually when someone used "gams", it was with an ironic, retro linguistic inflection, whereas guns was a more current term. However, with the current rate of social recycling, it's possible that "guns" currently seems as outdated as "gams" did then.
Old 07-19-2002, 06:52 AM
Geobabe Geobabe is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Central NJ
Posts: 4,338
A Body Builder's slang website says it means "biceps".
Old 07-20-2002, 06:44 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Houston, TX, USA
Posts: 12,259
Wow, so nobody has a clue? At least I'm not the only one totally out of it.

Thanks for the link, Geobabe. That at least clarifies that they mean the biceps. The why is still a mystery, unless my WAG is lucky.
Old 07-25-2002, 12:57 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Houston, TX, USA
Posts: 12,259
Still no answer as to why?
Old 07-25-2002, 03:13 AM
Dignan Dignan is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: On the run from JohnnyLaw
Posts: 1,851
I'm really surprised that some people don't seem to be familiar with "guns" being slang for big arms. I don't have an answer for the OP, but a common line when I was in high school went like this:

Guy: "Do you have tickets to the show?"
Gal: "What show?"
Guy (flexing): "The gun show!"
Old 07-25-2002, 09:12 PM
samclem samclem is offline
Graphite is a great
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Akron, Ohio
Posts: 26,131
The baseball origin is probably correct, according to Lighter. As early as 1929 the NYT was writing "A player's arm is his gun or his wing. A good gun means that the possessor has a stong arm.

Then a quote from something in 1973 "Guns--the biceps and triceps part of the arm.

But, outside of baseball, I can't remember hearing it in the 1950's-60's in Virginia. Not referring to biceps, etc.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:34 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017