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Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by mambo4, Jun 13, 2010.
anybody know why the slang "Clams" is used for hitting a wrong note?
Ever smelled a bad clam? It's pretty bad lol.
Never heard that term in my life.
...then you've been lucky.
Or is it an American slang term?
Never heard that term either, maybe it is more common over in the US.
Because "lobster" sounds silly.
the same reason the person playing it is a lizard
possibly a derivative or shortened version of "clamor" - to utter noisily
I've heard the term ... in fact, played a few "clam bakes" in my day.
I always thought it derived from "clam up", i.e., a lot of times when a wrong note is played it's only sort of halfway squeezed out.
Although personally I tend to play my mistakes at full volume.
I have heard it used plenty of times, and I always figured it was as jaywa said, derived from "clam up" i.e. to abruptly close or shut up.
Could also be from "clang" like the dissonance of a wrong note?
I never heard that term either. I always call them "clunker" notes.
The term is at least 50 years old, because I recall laughing uproariously the first time I heard it used, and I was in kindergarten at the time.
I wonder if the language mavens on the "A Way With Words" radio show know the answer?
Check out "Buddy Rich Bus Tapes" on You Tube.
(warning: F-bombs all over the place).
Clams == loogies; i.e., sputum through a horn. Not good; an uncontrolled disturbance; bad discipline.
that makes sense to me. I did pick up the term from the horn section.
and plegm boogers do look like clam innards...
I had always assumed it was because of the shape, not round and crisp like printed music, more of a blob shapeless thing.
Do you know what a group of clams is called?
That may lead to a whole other conversation.
By the way that was from a book called "An Exaltation of Larks", a book that describes what groups of animals are called, you know the generic Pride or Lions, Murder of Crows, Gaggle of Geese, etc..
I just had to share that bizarre little factoid.
I've mostly heard it used in conjunction with the verb "to blow", as in "I'm afraid I blew a few clams in that intro."
So, I believe it probably originated with horn players.
And I know Mike Watt uses the phrase often and he's got the love for Coltrane, so that's a little more circumstantial evidence for you.
Just say oops.
Dear Word Detective: In musicians’ parlance, especially trumpet players, the word “clam” is used to refer to a missed note. A “clambake” is used to refer to a concert, piece, or part of a work with a LOT of wrong notes. I’ve no idea if this has any relation to “clam up” of the early 20th century or the use of “clambake” to refer to people smoking pot in a closed automobile. The trumpet player email list will be most appreciative. — Tim Phillips.
“Clam” is an interesting word. Most uses in English refer back in some way to “clam” as the name for the shellfish (as Merriam-Webster puts it, “any of numerous edible marine bivalve mollusks living in sand or mud”. The origin of “clam,” however, lies far from the beach, in the prehistoric Germanic root word “klam,” which meant “to press or squeeze together” and also gave us “clamp.” It was the tightly clamped shut shell of the aquatic “clam” that gave it its name.
“Clam” has developed numerous slang and figurative uses over the years, from “to clam up” meaning to remain silent, lips pressed together like a clam’s shell, to “clam” as jocular slang for a dollar, probably from a supposed ancient use of clams as currency. About once a week I’m asked for the origin of “Happy as a clam,” a saying folks find mysterious only because it is rarely quoted in its full form, “Happy as a clam at high tide,” i.e., when it is least likely to be discovered by predators. “Clambake,” originally a beach party featuring clams “baked” in open pits, has also been used as a sardonic term for any fancy social gathering (as well as, I’ll take your word for it, that ritual of “doobie parking” where participants presumably get “baked” in a car closed up like a clam).
The likening of a closed mouth, or the human mouth in general, to the bivalve sort of “clam” may underlie the use of “clam” to mean a missed or flubbed note, especially if the term originated in connection with wind instruments. This usage dates back to at least the early 1950s and since then has been applied to an error in any sort of musical or theatrical performance (”Bing Crosby … always said, ‘Leave the clams in, let ‘em know I’m human,’” New York Times, 1991). Perhaps the “error” sense of the term lies in the failure of one’s “clam,” or mouth, to perform correctly.
But another, and to my mind stronger, possibility is that the “mistake” sense of “clam” derives from a completely different “clam.” In the 18th century the sound of two bells (in a bell tower) rung simultaneously (usually a mistake by the bell ringer) was known as a “clam.” This “clam” was probably “echoic” in origin, intended to mimic the dissonant, unpleasant sound itself (the same way “clang” and “slam” were formed), and actually appears to be the source of our modern “clamor,” meaning a jumbled roar of noises or voices. It seems entirely logical that “clam” as a term for mistake in a bell tower could have become a generalized musicians’ term for any sort of embarrassing flub in a performance.
Ive never heard that term. The youth, these days, call it hotboxing.
Hmmmm... interesting. Word Detective struggles mightily. It seems entirely logical that "word detective" is clueless.