Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Heads or Tails #86 -- reason

Barb asks us to talk about "reason" in today's Heads or Tails, but I'm still into numbers from last week... so I decided to look into the reason why "86" is a verb....

It is, you know -- I mean, '86' is a verb. You can look it up on Dictionary.com right now if you think I'm pulling your leg.

In restaurant or tavern parlance, to 86 someone is to refuse that person service; more generally, it means to eject or discard someone or something. (That VCR has given up the ghost; we'll have to 86 it.) The American Heritage Dictionary definition quoted on Dictionary.com says that the word may have been derived from "Chumley's bar and restaurant at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City."

Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Galactica of our day, mentions that most theories about the origin of the word "pertain either to death" (as in hard-boiled detective stories: We're going to have to 86 dat rat, Mugsy) "or to prohibition." Wikipedia also mentions the Chumley's theory of the origin of the word: "During Prohibition, an entrance through an interior adjoining courtyard was used, as it provided privacy and discretion for customers. As was a New York tradition, the cops were on the payroll of the bar and would give a ring to the bar that they were coming for a raid. The bartender would then give the command "86 everybody!", which meant that everyone should hightail it out the 86 Bedford entrance because the cops were coming in through the courtyard door." However, Wikipedia also suggests the word may be "a reference to Article 86 of the New York state liquor code which defines the circumstances in which a bar patron should be refused service" -- or, for short, '86ed.'

7 comments:

Grace said...

I used to waitress... we used 86 to spread the word among the staff that we were out of something... like... "86 today's special".... never to refuse service to someone. But there were people that I would have LOVED to refuse service to... I might have to go pull out my Oxford English Dictionary (all 26 volumes) and check more for the origin of this slang...oops verb.

Come on by and see my HOTs...

Skittles said...

I didn't know any of the reasons for the meaning. You have taught me something new. Your job here is done. :) (For today at least.)

Psst.. I'm glad you picked the number "86."

Tumblewords: said...

Haven't heard that used for quite some time - enjoyed the research narrative -

Robyn Jones said...

HA! That was great use of the word reason...I also haven't heard that used in a really long time. Interesting...

Misty Dawn said...

Interesting post!

Like Barb, I'm glad you chose 86 as the number-verb ;-)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

We learn something every day. Thanks for the lesson.

Shelby said...

Something I did not know. This one's kinda like, 'the rest of the story.'

pretty interesting.