gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Jun 08, 2005 6:03 am

I was reading the story on the FBI agent who turned out to be the informer ‘deep throat,’ who eventually ended up bringing down the Nixon White House, when I ran across the following:
<2005 “But the saga also suggests a parallel cautionary tale, one that instructs reporters to cast a gimlet eye at the stew of self-interest and vanity . . . .”—‘Time Magazine,’ 13 June>
The only GIMLETS that I am familiar with are made with vodka or gin and don’t have much to do with eyes (except perhaps getting cockeyed), so I decided to check into this and also see if there was possibly any relation between the two – there wasn’t.
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GIMLET EYE: 1) a sharp or piercing glance. 2) an eye that appears to give a sharp or piercing look. 3) a squinting eye [[original meaning but less common today]].

The expression GIMLET EYED first appeared in print in 1752 and the idea of piercing or sharp came from the fact that a GIMLET [circa 1420] is a small, sharp, woodworking tool with a screw point, grooved shank, and cross handle for boring holes. The word GIMLET has also passed into an adjective describing sight, understanding, etc.: acute, sharp, piercing. <“He is a man with a gimlet eye for the future.”>
<1752 “She has a Sister at Hampton-Court . . . she had but one Eye, indeed, but that was a Piercer . . . we were called the GIMLET-EY’D Family.”—‘Taste’ (1781) by Foote, I. page 10>

<1785 “’GIMLET-EYED,’ squinting.”—‘Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’ by Grose>

<1894 “‘What said ye yer name was?’ said the old dame again, looking at me with her GIMLET EYES.”— ‘The Raiders; Passages in the Life of John Faa’ by Crockett, page 238>

<1952 “As late as 1943, he [[the traditional British diplomat]] needed two reputable sponsors, preferably dukes, and had to survive a board of purse-lipped oldsters with a GIMLET EYE for the cut of a fellow's jib and the sturdiness of his pedigree.”—‘Time Magazine’ 11 February>

<1983 “A swift, sidelong stare which manages to be GIMLET and gleeful at the same time.”—‘Sunday Telegraph,’ 9 October, page 7/1>

<2002 “McPhee [[Pulitzer-prizewinning author]] not be the consummate angler, but he has a GIMLET EYE for the ‘mot juste’ [[exactly the right word]], as when he describes the ‘Cretaceous’ look of a backhoe.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 25 November>
GIMLET: a cocktail made with gin or vodka, sweetened lime juice, and sometimes soda water.

Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins

GIMLET: A ‘healthy’ cocktail invented by a naval officer. Anyway it was a lot healthier than drinking gin neat [[never saw 'neat' used this way but assume it here means pure, straight, undiluted]], which is exactly why Sir. T. O. Gimlette devised the ‘gimlet’ that commemorates him. Gimlette, a British naval surgeon [[It must get old operating on navels!]] from 1879 to 1917, believed that drinking straight gin harmed the health and impaired the efficiency of naval officers, so he introduced a cocktail that diluted the gin with lime juice . Today the gimlet is made with gin or vodka, sweetened lime juice, and sometimes soda water.
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<1928 “The ‘GIMLET’ we were introduced to . . . at the Golf Club: and it proved to be the well and flavorably known ricky, but described as ‘gin, a spot of lime, and soda.’”—“I’ll Never be Cured’ by D. B. Wesson, iii. page 73>

<1937 “Standing about in the ward-room accepting with gracious melancholy ‘GIMLET’ after ‘GIMLET.’”—‘Present Indicative’ by Noel Coward, IX. page 378>

<1953 “A real GIMLET is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else.”—‘Long Good-Bye’ (1959) by R. Chandler, iii. page 18>
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(Oxford English Dictionary, Random House and Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionaries, American Heritage Dictionary)
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Ken G – June 7, 2005
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jun 08, 2005 6:26 am

Ken, 'neat' is indeed the usual British way of saying 'straight' in relation to spirits (i.e. served/drunk without the addition of mixers or other liquor).
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by russcable » Wed Jun 08, 2005 6:31 am

So by a weird accident of unrelated etymology, vodka and orange juice is a tool for turning screws (screwdriver) and gin/vodka and lime juice is a "small, sharp woodworking tool with a screw point...". Very interesting!
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jun 08, 2005 8:07 am

And if I saw it I would drink it, always assuming I could chisel the money out of She Who Must Be Obeyed.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jun 08, 2005 8:17 am

I suspect you are a chip off the old block, Bob. Between us I'm sure we could scrape something together.
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by sandx » Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:47 pm

Brewers:

Gimlet eye: Strictly speaking "an eye that wanders obliquely"

Welsh - cwimlam
Gaelic - guimble - to twist in a serpentine way
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by russcable » Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:56 pm

Ahh, possibly this explains the slithy toves' behavior then... I also tend to gyre after I've had a few gimlets especially around brillig.
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:38 pm

Sandy, where did you find the word "cwimlam"? I can find only four words in Welsh where an "i" follows a "w" (both are vowels), and cwimlam isn't one of them. I am a rotten Welsh speaker, but my dictionaries are very good.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Jun 08, 2005 4:20 pm

Sandy, Interesting. In my 16th edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable (1999), I notice that they have defined the expression as follows (which is probably a revision over your edition):

GIMLET-EYED: Keen-eyed; very sharpsighted; having eyes that ‘bore through,’ like a gimlet.
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But was it also Brewer’s that provided the Welsh and Gaelic words?
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Ken G – June 8, 2005
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gimlet (eyes and vodka or gin)

Post by sandx » Thu Jun 09, 2005 12:25 pm

Bobinwales wrote: Sandy, where did you find the word "cwimlam"? I can find only four words in Welsh where an "i" follows a "w" (both are vowels), and cwimlam isn't one of them. I am a rotten Welsh speaker, but my dictionaries are very good.

Hi Bob,it`s from one of my older text books. Brewers (1894)Cwim -round (that`s interesting) and cwimlaw- to twist and turn.
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