have by the short hairs / have them where the hair is short)

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have by the short hairs / have them where the hair is short)

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Nov 29, 2004 5:34 am

In the course of the discussion ‘take it in the shorts,’ the expression ‘have by the short hairs' (or 'have them where the hair is short') came up and for the purpose of retrievability, I’m repeating that here.
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HAVE (SOMEONE) BY THE SHORT HAIRS (1888) or WHERE THE HAIR IS SHORT (1861): to have someone in a painful and helpless situation, to have someone at an extreme disadvantage, to have complete mastery or control cover [also ‘have by the short and curlies’(1940s and mainly British), ‘have by the curlies/knickers,’ ‘have by the wool’], to have someone right where you want them. “When life gets you by the short hairs, it doesn’t let go.”—Playboy.

The obvious reference is to the pubic hair and an expression that is similar in meaning, but a bit more pointed (or rounded) is to ‘have one by the balls/nuts.’ And, in fact Chapman’s Dictionary of Slang says specifically ‘from the short hairs growing on the scrotum.’
<1861 “The next time I [sic] will have them WHER [sic] THE HAIR IS SHORT if they try any of their games.”—‘Long Road Home’ by H. Lind, page 42>

<1872 “You've got me WHERE THE HA’R IS SHORT! What a cursed fool I have been.”—‘ Memoirs of the United States Secret Service’ by G. P. Burnham, page 207>

<1880 “I had to tackle this miserable language . . . I've got it WHERE THE HAIR’S SHORT, I think.”—‘A Tramp Abroad’ by Mark Twain, I. xx. page 184>

<1888 “Then they'll rush in, and then we've got 'em BY THE SHORT HAIRS!”—‘Wee Willie Winkie’ by Rudyard Kipling, page 67>

<1928 “Those Chinhwan really did seem to have the rest of the world BY THE SHORT HAIRS.”—“Blackwood’s Magazine,” February, page 150/1>

<1930 “She's evidently got her husband BY THE SHORT HAIRS.”–‘The Documents in the Case’ by Sayers & Eustace, I. page 25>

<1982 “Public employee unions HAVE YOU BY THE SHORT HAIRS before they even sit down to bargain.”—‘Morning Line’ (WKGN radio), 11 June>
(Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Oxford English Dictionary)
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Ken G – October 7, 2004
Submitted by Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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