June 24, 2011

In a June 18 Free for All letter, Laura Holloway objected to The Post’s use of “shot their wad” as an inappropriate vulgarity.

Too bad. While the phrase may be popularly understood in reference to sexual performance, its origin is thoroughly benign. Like other common phrases that originate from the use of firearms — e.g., “lock, stock and barrel,” “flash in the pan” — the phrase in question signifies an ineffective attempt to fire a charge. In weaponry ranging from a Napoleonic cannon to a modern shotgun,  a paper, fiber or plastic wad is used to separate the projectile from the propellant.  “Shooting one’s wad” simply means that the charge contains no projectile and is therefore ineffectual.  

Those who apply it to potentially offensive activities have only their own sensibilities to blame.

Glen B. Ruh, Falls Church

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After 70 plus years of living and learning, I just learned that when I used the expression “shot my wad,” I was using vulgarity, according to Laura Holloway. All this time I thought I was referring to spending all my money: goes to show you, you can learn something new at any age. But I wish I hadn’t. Couldn’t we have left well enough alone?

Joan Harrison, Rockville

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