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CSBG Archive

Intentional or Unintentional? for 6/2

To refresh you on the game, the gist is that I show you an instance of something in comics I found humorous, and you tell me if the humor was intentional or unintentional!

Today’s instance is the infamous 1951 issue of Batman (#66) that featured Batman and Joker competing in “pulling boners.”

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Thanks to scansdaily for the pics!

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Boner is clearly a slang term for a blunder/error. But by 1951, was that the ONLY slang term for it? The humor value clearly hinges upon that – did the use of the word “boner” as slang for a male erection come into usage by 1951 or no?

Beats me! That’s why I leave it to you folks.

37 Comments

““boner” as slang for a male erection come into usage by 1951 or no?

Beats me!”

Jokers boner has you “beat”?

Oh man, this will run for days.

I’m going to go with unintentional here.

Okay, I had to wade through lots of stuff about “queefing” but here’s what I found out from here:

http://www.collegehumor.com/article:1723993

“The term “boner” came to refer to erections because of Chicagoan songwriter Julian Pigg’s hit from 1919, “Henrietta,” which contains these lines: “Henrietta, Henrietta, / You’ve made me a loner. / Now that I am without you, / I’ve only a boner.” The song was referencing Pigg’s divorce from obesity model Henrietta DeToot and the custody of their son, who had Umberto’s Syndrome, but listeners generally made their own interpretations. The popularity of the song outlasted Painbread’s proposal, which was withdrawn after the doctor tried to get the speculum renamed “the clamdigger.”

This sounds convincing, but – y’know – the site its from is called “college humour” and so could possibly be total nonsense. Anyone care to verify?

What the Hell is “wuxtry”?

“What the Hell is “wuxtry”?”

old newspaper seller slang for “extra”.

“Wuxtry” is probably a vulgarized version of “extra,” which became “extry” when shouted by newsboys.

And, holy hell, that’s a lot of boners.

"O" the Humanatee!

June 3, 2007 at 10:59 am

There’s this great new thing called the Internet! It allows you to look up facts and things from the comfort of your own home computer!

And about 5 minutes spent on a Google search of “boner slang etymology” led me to the entry for boner in the Online Etymology Dictionary, which states: “Meaning ‘erect penis’ is 1950s, from earlier bone-on (1940s), probably a variation (with connection notion of “hardness”) of hard-on (1893).” The meaning of “blunder,” on the other hand, dates back to at least 1912.

So not only was it almost certainly unintentional, but in its own time it probably wouldn’t have counted as humorous. I would guess that if comics creators in those days tried to slip in sexual jokes, they would do it in the background, not as a foreground element throughout a story!

“I would guess that if comics creators in those days tried to slip in sexual jokes, they would do it in the background, not as a foreground element throughout a story!”

So, like, you never would have seen Wonder Woman frequently being bound, and spanked?

hifidigitalboy

June 3, 2007 at 11:25 am

I’d vote for unintentional in this case. It makes me think of “Growing Pains” and how Mike’s best friend was named Boner. I think that today’s television censors would object to its use. But, 20 years ago it was not widely accepted as a euphemism for a male erection. At least I wasn’t aware of it. Of course, 20 years ago I was still an innocent young lad.

I honestly don’t think that the term meant the same thing in 1951 as it does today.

I still laugh at these panels. The one with the Joker yelling just kills me. And the bit in the library.

Mmm. Immaturity.

I think The Growing Pains use of Boner is definitely intentional. I still remember Boner’s dad’s name-
Sylvester Stabone!

I’m voting for “unintentional” for the 1951 Batman comic.

But “Growing Pains” in the ’80s?!? Ahhh, bless your gullible heart, HifiDigitalBoy. I heard “boner” (as much if not more as “hard-on”) as a kid in the late ’70s. If middle-school boys in my mostly-white-bread neighborhood were using it then, there’s no way it wasn’t a “widely accepted euphemism” when that dorky sitcom was being written a few years later.

Flush it all away

June 3, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Is the “intentional or unintentional” thing tongue-in-cheek, or are we actually discussing it at face value?

How could it NOT be unintentional? Wouldn’t that mean the Batman writer decided it would be in perfectly good taste for his under-teenage crowd to read about the Joker’s tumescence? What would it even have to do with the story if it were taken at (today’s) face value? That’s kind of ridiculous.

Aren’t there any baseball fans around here? Surely you recall the two postseason-killing mistakes by New York Giants players in the early 20th century, “the Merkle Boner” and “the Snodgrass Muff.”

Yeah, in the 1970s and 1980s, immature boys everywhere (and by that I mean me and my friends) chuckled whenever we heard the word “bone” even, and “boner” made us howl.

I’m going to vote intentional for the Batman, though. I think the fact that they just kept putting it in there (sorry) means they knew they were getting away with something. Sure, it still meant a mistake, so they could CLAIM it wasn’t dirty, but I think they knew enough about the secondary meaning to think, “Let’s see how many times we can use this in a story in the proper context, but wink at the audience.” That’s my take, at least.

Merkle’s Boner. Hee hee hee. See? Even now I can’t help it!

And to tie this all together, the actor who played Boner Andrew Koenig (son of Walter “Chekov” Koenig) played the Joker in the fan film “Batman: Dead End”

I think they were getting away with something- the dirtier meaning was sort of known but obscure enough that it would fly over the heads of most readers.

I think they were getting away with something- the dirtier meaning was sort of known but obscure enough that it would fly over the heads of most readers.

Yeah, that would be how it could be considered intentional – if you think that boner was considered (at the time) such an obscure slang word for penis that the writer knew he could get it past editorial without anyone noticing.

I’ve got a slang dictionary published as late as 1989 that only has the “mistake”, not the “erection”, definition. So just because the latter was recorded as early as the 1950s doesn’t mean it was widespread then.

Incidentally, the Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang (edited down from Eric partridge’s classic original) records yet another meaning: “sharp blow”, used at a couple of English Public Schools in the 19th century.

Ha, ha, ha. Those panels are hilarious. I think the one with the newspaper is the best. “Chortle at Joker’s boner” as if they are laughing that his manhood is small. Also it seems like Joker has a magical power to cause erections when he “shows them how many boners he can make”.

I’d vote for intentional as the writer clearly knew what he was up to and like Brian said above, it could easily slip past the editors.

Does anyone know who the creative team on the issue were by the way?

I read the story some time in 1954-55, and I don’t recall my peers and I taking any particular notice..if we had, the word would have been spread all over our elementary school within minutes, and the issue read to shreds….I still have it

Unintentional–I don’t see it otherwise–sure sometimes people will see what they can get away with–but not like that at that time.

Pops music does this a lot, or rather did, as now you can say these things outright.
Which is a shame.

I think it’s intentional, because you would not use the word boner THAT MANY TIMES if you weren’t going for a joke.

I’d vote for intentional as the writer clearly knew what he was up to and like Brian said above, it could easily slip past the editors.

That’s what I heard. I cite a source that seemed pretty authoritative at the time, but I forget what that source is.

This should be an Urban Legend!

This should be an Urban Legend!

If I had a source, you know it would be! :)

This is one of those ones where you want it to be intentional so much it hurts.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 3, 2007 at 9:40 pm

You were so busy forcing me into a boner, you forgot you were committing one yourself!

If we accept that the word was known as slang for a stiffy at the time, even if only by a few, then the above quote means that the writer was one of those few.

I read a Wizard interview with Garth Ennis years ago, and he was saying that when he wrote the comic ‘The Demon’ he called a demon in it Baytor.
And in one issue he had Baytor become king of hell, and had a scene where all the demons were yelling/singing ‘All Hail the Master Baytor’ and characters said ‘Master Baytor’ throughout.
Apparently it got right through and was about to be printed, and someone said the name outloud and realised what he’d done.
Ennis had thought it’d get picked up straight away, he’d put it in as a joke for the team/editors, and was quite enjoying seeing how close to print it would actually get.

Hi Jim. Photos i received. Thanks

Evan Walters: “I think they were getting away with something- the dirtier meaning was sort of known but obscure enough that it would fly over the heads of most readers.”

An analogous situation was in the 1960s Frankie & Annette “Beach Party” movies. In the first one, Bob Cummings played a scientist who could “freeze” people by touching a particular spot on their foreheads with the tip of his finger. Boneheaded biker Eric Von Zipper (whom Bob taught to do it, but he couldn’t make it work on anybody but himself) & his gang called this “giving [the victim] the finger.” They meant the joke, but it got past the censors.

And to tie this all together, the actor who played Boner Andrew Koenig (son of Walter “Chekov” Koenig) played the Joker in the fan film “Batman: Dead End”

I think you win this one.

I have to go with intentional — the word is repeated just WAY too many times. Since the terminology was just coming into usage, it would be a true under-the-radar “in joke.” Also, check out the cover of the issue:
http://www.goldenagebatman.com/cover9.html

If that doesn’t scream “boner,” I don’t know what does.

erm… at the risk of coming to this very, very late, and coming over perhaps a tad obsessed with willies…

according to the sainted OED, the earliest cited usage of the word ‘boner’ to refer to an erect penis in print is really late, in clancy sigal’s 1968 novel, ‘going away’, as in, ‘the little dog used to raise a boner every time it walked into a room…’. not too much of a stretch to think that denizens of gotham’s criminal underworld were familiar with rude terms for stiffies a few years ahead of the general public, so i’d lean towards justified smirking on this one.

at the risk of seeming unduly concerned, if anyone turns up an earlier example explicitly attached to a tumid member, please do flag it up on here, so i can let my mate over at OED know; it doesn’t mention ‘bone-on’ at all, which is an obvious shortcoming. it’s important to keep up on these things.

In recent Star Wars comics, they introduced a Jedi Master called Soon Bayts, aka “Master Bayts”. I’m not sure if he phrase was actually written out, but any subsequent appearances after his first have been extremely rare.

Here’s the “Wookieepedia” entry discussing it:
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Soon_Bayts

The Fifties were a simpler time. Unintentional. Or very possibly THE GREATEST FAILURE OF EDITORIAL ON HISTORICAL RECORD.

No, Unintentional. Remember, if 1960, the Flintstones were having a ‘gay old time.’ Word meanings change. Boner really used to mean mistake, not … you know.

The funniest part about that Batman issue? Drawn by Dick Sprang.

I think I heard the modern meaning of ‘boner’ maybe twice in the ’80s. It seems to have been pretty rare until the ’90s, at least around here, and it doesn’t seem to be in many movies or anything before then. And the ‘mistake’ meaning was quite common up until the ’90s, and isn’t unheard of now.

I’m pretty sure this was unintentional.

Unintentional. If it was intentional, I doubt they would have taken the gag to such excess.

Unintentional. The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang lists “boner” meaning “erection” as coming into use in 1962.

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