Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Digest Number 1548

Date: 08 Jul 2007

Mario wrote:

"Didn't [Chandler] lift that metaphor [the big sleep] from another writer? I have a vague memory of a quote (from Blake?)."

Quite possibly, but he thought different. From a letter expressing reservations about a book by Eric Partridge (who compiled books about slang), in Raymond Chandler Speaking (pp. 88-89):

"Throughout his play The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O'Neill used 'the big sleep' as a synonym for death. He used it, so far as one can tell from the context, as a matter of course, apparently in the belief that it was an accepted underworld expression. If so, I'd like to see whence it comes, as I invented the expression. It is qute possible I reinvented it, but I never saw it in print before I used it, and until I get the evidence I shall continue to believe that O'Neill took it from me, directly or indirectly, and thought I was using a standard term."

It's actually a pretty interesting letter overall about the difference between self-conscious, writerly slang (including his own) and real slang, which Chandler felt had a "hard simplicity."


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