Another 'Only at Metafilter' Moment August 22, 2015 9:12 AM   Subscribe

In the Ask thread Did people actually say "shwench", town of cats posted a question about a 30 year old William Safire article asking about one slang term referenced in the article. A few weeks later, Slanguage Guy posted a confirmation of the slang term, and he is the one who sent the original usage to Safire 30 years ago!
posted by Philbo to MetaFilter-Related at 9:12 AM (28 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Ha, that's great! Direct link to Slanguage Guy's comment; welcome aboard.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So the same guy who told him 30 years ago that it was slang...came back now to say "it's true, it's true"...and that counts as confirmation?
posted by hal_c_on at 10:15 AM on August 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


Get him.
posted by clavdivs at 10:18 AM on August 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


That is some extreme, time travel level sock puppetry
posted by sacrifix at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Love this.
posted by radioamy at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2015


So the same guy who told him 30 years ago that it was slang...came back now to say "it's true, it's true"...and that counts as confirmation?

Well, the OP specifically said:
I am praying one of you will be like, "Yeah, my ex-girlfriend totally told William Safire this was a thing to see if he'd publish it, what a gullible doofus."
So it seems that someone saying "Yeah, I wrote that letter, and it was absolutely not a joke" is the best possible answer.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:59 AM on August 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Haha, fantastic!
posted by Ned G at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2015


The long con, humanities-style.
posted by rhizome at 12:00 PM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Today we are all William Safire
posted by one_bean at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2015


I love this dumb internet.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


Don't know about the rest of "this dumb internet", but Metafilter > Any newspaper that ever ran William Safire's column.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:30 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank goodness MiFi doesn't have a silly "no original sources" rule.
posted by sammyo at 1:57 PM on August 22, 2015


I love this. Slanguage Guy, if you stick around, I get great joy from the idea that your "slanguage" user name will follow you for eternity!
posted by latkes at 2:32 PM on August 22, 2015


But, I'm confused about why you're not "Shwanguage Guy".
posted by latkes at 2:33 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I saw that and then wondered if shwench was hyperhyperlocal to his dorm, or if it only lasted a few years, because I never heard it (I was there in the mid- to late-80s).
posted by rtha at 4:20 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I lived in New Hampshire in 85-86, and never heard it.
posted by scottymac at 7:54 PM on August 22, 2015


The debate over when hyper-local (eg the floor of one dorm) becomes 'accepted' slang is an interesting one. Inclusion of this in Safires column lends it the validity I don't think it would achieve otherwise - which is also (to me) really interesting that this one cite should be the threshold: no offence to Slanguage Guy, but I was in New England schools/colleges throughout the 80's and never heard it either. Mind the boarding school I went to had its own slang (the jig was the snack bar, for ex) but does that mean I can say this was slang for any PX/snack bar/commissary, etc? Cause thousands of people over time have used it?
Someone must have done some research on this, the moment colloquialisms enter the language at large?
posted by From Bklyn at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Next up on AskMe: the person who, 30 years ago, first said to William Safire, "Stop trying to make shwench happen!"
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:29 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Today, we are all Williams Safire.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:49 AM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


> Mind the boarding school I went to had its own slang (the jig was the snack bar, for ex) but does that mean I can say this was slang for any PX/snack bar/commissary, etc?

I'm not sure what you mean; yes, it was definitely slang in that particular boarding school, and it was slang for whatever you used it for. Sometimes local slang stays local, sometimes it becomes more widely used. In any case, it's delightful to get confirmation that shwench was in fact (very) local slang, and I join the crowd welcoming Slanguage Guy: stick around!
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Today, we are all Williams Safire."

My favorite quixotic Safire cause was his insistence that "seminal" should be pronounced with a long /i/ — "seeminal," because semen.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I saw that and then wondered if shwench was hyperhyperlocal to his dorm, or if it only lasted a few years, because I never heard it (I was there in the mid- to late-80s)."

Or the brosephs who coined it at least had the good sense to not use it around you.
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2015


Definitely this answer is exactly what I was hoping for! This has been bugging me for years and I'm so glad I can now go to my grave relatively secure in the knowledge that at least the guy whose letter it was based on actually believed this was current slang in use by students.

At the same time, I'm also glad to know definitively that it wasn't common, because eesh. It is bad, hard-to-say slang.
posted by town of cats at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2015


This is a nice story, but I'm honestly baffled that people on the one hand guffaw at Safire (who at least had an envelope postmarked Hanover, NH) for his credulity and in the same post fawn over this amazing coincidence. Sorry for being a spoilsport, but...?
posted by one_bean at 8:05 PM on August 24, 2015


I haven't been keeping track — are those the same people? Otherwise: One site, many opinions.
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on August 24, 2015


> This is a nice story, but I'm honestly baffled that people on the one hand guffaw at Safire (who at least had an envelope postmarked Hanover, NH) for his credulity and in the same post fawn over this amazing coincidence. Sorry for being a spoilsport, but...?

You're not being a spoilsport, you're being a jerk. "Fawn over"? Seriously? We're right here, you know; you're not discussing the lower classes with your friends at the club.
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now, I've heard of the long troll, but that's epic.
posted by eriko at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2015


Geez, it was always my dream to become the subject of Internet conspiracy theories. I just thought it would be about something more significant.

Let me make sure this part is clear; when I sent Safire a letter on college slang I included every term I could think of, from the mainstream terms like rack/re-rack (sleep/go back to sleep after doing something) to the obscure ones. Shwench was one of the most obscure. I had heard it used by several fraternity brothers, occasionally, but not a lot of people and not often. Very local, and passing.

I went back to my files and found the original letter I sent him. (I don't keep a lot of old stuff, but I was so excited when he ran that column that I preserved a photocopy of my letter to him.) It was pretty graphic, because I figured he would be amused by the terms about drinking, vomiting, and dealing with the opposite sex. Buried in there was the word shwench, given the passing reference it deserved. For whatever reason, it struck a cord with him and he moved it front and center. And although he didn't verify my "claims" before the column ran, I corresponded with him later through letters and phone, and we talked about the slang at Dartmouth.

I suppose I could share that "original source" letter. Unlike Dan Rather's old letter from George Bush, this really was typed on an Olivetti electric typewriter, not in Microsoft Word default format. It's authentic.
posted by Slanguage Guy at 5:23 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


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