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Old 09-19-2004, 01:56 PM
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Shooting your wad - etymology

What is the origin of the phrase shooting your wad? Google brings up conflicting results.
Old 09-19-2004, 02:10 PM
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One interpretation

http://talking-dog.com/archives/000162.html


Quote:
I hate to take the edge off of this but the term “shoot your wad” or “I shot my wad” originally is referenced to the days when muzzle loaders (guns) used a “wad” of some type of cloth material to retain the charge of gunpowder and shot in their guns. Since it was a pain to reload, the shooter was generally very careful not to waste his “wad” on a poor shot or something not worth shooting (you get my meaning?).

A friend of mine was almost fired from a college lecturing job because he used this term. A mutual friend, who is an avid gun enthusiast, came to his aid with the above information.
and another

Quote:
Q.: Where does the phrase "shoot a wad" come from?
- Scott G.

A.: It's from the 1920s. Originally it meant "to bet everything," with shoot meaning "to give or pay" and wad meaning "money." It later adopted another meaning, "to ejaculate" (with shoot meaning "to have sexual intercourse" and wad meaning "semen."
Old 09-19-2004, 02:52 PM
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A quick, preliminary reply.

I can find a newspaper use of the phrase in 1900. It was used to express that the fellow had exhausted his available resources. He had done all that he was capable of.

I personally doubt the gun/wad etymology.

I don't have a cite yet for the more modern, sexual use.
Old 09-19-2004, 03:58 PM
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Well, the tell the cannon version for the tour guide re-enactments at Fort Point National Historic Site, presumably a place that would hear from history buffs if they screwed up.

The explanation is that after firing a cannon, the barrel has to cool before it can be reloaded. If it's not cool enough, and you put in gun powder and ram down the wad to contain it, it may go off at that point, shooting the wad, and perhaps taking the ramrod and your arm with it.
Old 09-19-2004, 04:18 PM
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I may change my mind.

I just found an 1882 newspaper cite which used it as a metaphor about a guy who went hunting and came up empty.. Again, it wasn't literal, but a metaphor.
Old 09-19-2004, 04:18 PM
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Quote:
I personally doubt the gun/wad etymology.
Why?
Old 09-19-2004, 04:50 PM
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More discussion here at wordorigins.org message board re "shoot one's wad"
Old 09-19-2004, 04:56 PM
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Johnny. I stupidly doubted the connection to guns because of the previously found early cite of 1914. I let that color my perception.


Hard to argue with my 1882 find.
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