December 19, 2021

Illustration by Seth

In October, McGill-Queen’s University Press published The Adventurer’s Glossary by HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, in collaboration with the philosopher Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth. The following excerpt from the book was first published by BOING BOING.


Here are five sample entries from the glossary’s “G” section:

In chess, an opening sequence of moves involving a risky sacrifice to gain advantage is known as a gambit. The term, which was first applied to chess openings in 1561 by a Spanish priest, who borrowed it from the Italian expression dare il gambetto (put a leg forward to trip someone), has come to mean, more generally, “a sneaky plan, stratagem, or ploy.” The 1966 Michael Caine movie Gambit, for example, is about the planning and execution of an ultra-complex heist.

“Diggin the scene with the gangsta lean” exults N.W.A’s 1988 song “Gangsta Gangsta,” quoting William DeVaughn’s 1974 R&B hit, “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got.” To recline to the side, while driving a car, is a sedentary form of peacockery related to the pimp roll, gangster glide, and other swaggering, ambling gaits with a pronounced half-limp – which are intended to advertise one’s status as a much-injured tough guy, a veteran of many a fracas or brawl.

The directive Get out of Dodge alludes to Dodge City, Kansas, the locale of the 1955–75 TV series Gunsmoke – in which the fictional US Marshal Matt Dillon (played by square-jawed actor James Arness) would issue this directive to bad guys. In the 1960s, juvenile delinquents began using the phrase to mean split, take off. In recent years, the phrase has become popular among apocalypse-fearing preppers, for whom “Dodge,” in this usage, means “civilized society.”

The mysterious origin of Bob Denver’s character’s name on the 1960s TV show Gilligan’s Island is known only to producer Sherwood Schwartz. However, one suspects that it’s a tribute to the antiquated nautical jargon gilligan hitch, meaning “unusual or hastily tied knot.” This expression, in turn, may refer to an old-time vaudeville character, Mr Gilligan, a brawler who placed opponents in clumsy but effective choke holds.

During WWII, Go for Broke! was the slogan of the US Army’s 442d Regimental Combat Team, recruited from among the country’s Nisei – that is, second-generation Americans born of Japanese parents. The idiom, coined during a dice game among the bold soldiers of the 442d, most of whom didn’t survive the war, means “to risk everything” in a single, final attempt.

Looking for a gift for a word nerd and/or lover of adventure? Your quest ends here!


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