November 25, 2007

Words of One Syllable Department

In the NYT of 18 November, Sam Roberts wrote about "Mailer's Nonfiction Legacy: His 1969 Race for Mayor", saying that

Even his three-word campaign slogan -- a vulgarization of "No More Bull" -- was unprintable.

(Hat tip to Barry Popik, in ADS-L yesterday.)  As Mark Mandel remarked, that's really getting it backwards.  Whatever the history of bull 'trivial, insincere, or untruthful talk or writing; nonsense' (OED) and bullshit 'rubbish, nonsense' (OED again) -- this isn't entirely clear -- there's no doubt that in the popular view most occurrences of the former are seen as euphemisms for the latter, rather than the latter being seen as a vulgarization of the former.

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at November 25, 2007 01:51 PM