Shoot the breeze

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Shoot the breeze

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Jul 26, 2004 8:10 am

An English friend has just moved to Texas and was introduced to the phrase "Shooting the breeze". He was told that it came from "campesinos" shooting guns randomly into the air. This smacks of "folk etymology" to me but I'm open to opinions.
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Shoot the breeze

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Jul 26, 2004 8:25 am

I would say that what your friend told you smacks of bull, as it should, since ‘shoot/throw the bull’ is a synonym for the phrase. It is my belief that the real origin (IMHO) of shoot the breeze is captured only (in the sources I have checked) by “Brewer’s” (see below) in which ‘breeze’ is identified as a word for ‘rumor.’ A bit of poking around revealed to me that ‘breeze’ as a slang word for ‘rumor’ (or even scandal) entered the lexicon in the late 19th century and actually took on the meaning in the U.S. of ‘empty chatter’ in the 1910s and was eventually incorporated into several breeze-related expressions (see below).

Note the scattered dates in the various sources. My tendency with this sort of thing is to generally believe the earlier date when looking at ‘reputable’ sources since this just usually indicates that they have stumbled onto an earlier citation, but as is clear, I would hold most of these very specific dates (often contradictory) flying around in most dictionaries in very little awe. OED does it best with by getting no more specific than early, middle, and late century. Chapman’s ‘Dictionary of Slang of American Slang’ plays it safe by the use of the word ‘by’ with their dates, which in many cases may be true, but sometimes ain’t to useful.
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American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms

SHOOT THE BREEZE also SHOOT or THROW THE BULL [[also ‘shoot the shit,’ ‘bullshit,’ ‘chew the fat,’ ‘back the breeze,’ ‘bat the breeze,’ ‘beat the breeze’ ‘fan the breeze’]]: Talk idly, chat, as in “They’ve been sitting on the porch for hours, just shooting the breeze,” or “The guys sit around the locker room, throwing the bull.” The first of these slangy terms, alluding to talking into the wind, was first recorded in 1919. In the variant, first recorded in 1908. ‘bull’ is shortening of ‘bullshit,’ and means ‘empty talk’ or ‘lies.’
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SHOOT THE BREEZE: [phrase “1940s” and still in use] (originally U.S.) to gossip to talk idly (cf. ‘back the breeze’). [Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang]

SHOOT THE BREEZE (or THE FAT) verb phrase by 1941 [[note the use of the ever so safe weasel word ‘by’]]. To chat amiably and casually ; = ‘chew the fat’. . . . . [Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang]

SHOOT THE BREEZE or THE BULL, TO: To chat idly; to gossip. A ‘breeze’ is a rumor, which is wafted from one person to another, as when one ‘gets wind of’ something. ‘Bull’ is short for ‘bullshit.’ The phrases are of American origin and date from the early 20th century. [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable]
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Ken G (Fort Collins, CO) – December 6, 2002
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Shoot the breeze

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Jul 26, 2004 8:39 am

Drawin down on the varmint now Pow - gotem daid center.
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