X of death, killer X

I wrote, a propos of a postcard of a young man with an extraordinarily developed musculature, that he had “abs [abdominal muscles] of death”, and then thought of the template X of death, with the postmodifier of death conveying ‘overwhelming, magnificent’, much like the premodifier killer in expressions like killer abs — both of them hyperbolically metaphorical allusions to the effects of X on people.

I was taken back over 30 years to a favorite gay cartoon:

(from: Charles Ortleb & Richard Fiala. 1978. Relax! This book is only a phase you’re going through: Gay cartoons from Christopher Street. NY: St. Martin’s.)

And on the lesbian side, this explanation from the site Lez Flirt:

In flirting parlance, the Cruise of Death is a flirtation so beyond mere flirting that the target of the cruise feels like you’ve just had sex with them.

Meanwhile, there are piles of X of death cites for various body parts, among them:

If it were as easy as buying a pill, shake, or ab machine then the shopping malls across America would be filled with men who have rippling washboard abs-of-death but what do we see instead?  Obesity everywhere! (link)

And that’s Matthew McConaughey, with the “glutes [gluteus maximus muscles] of death”, to the right. (link)

I’ve always dreamed of huge glorious pecs [pectoral muscles] of death. I know I can do it, I just have to get started. (link)

Naomi has an ass of death. She begins teasing us with that thing she calls an ass. (link)

It’s not everyday you come across a band with a name like Tits of Death, so it was about time we took 10 minutes with a band we’d formerly christened a ten-breasted rock machine. (link)

And of course, the alliterative dick of death, as in the song of awed phallus worship, “Dick of Death” from Pansy Division‘s album Wish I’d Taken Pictures:

… Then he took my hand
and ran it over the outline in his pants
He had the dick of death

… Then he took my hand
And let me guide him into my promised land
He had the dick of death
I looked into his eyes
And let him sodomize me with his dick of death
I’d never seen one
Quite this big before
When he’s soft he’s nearly
Hung down to the floor
I don’t know if I love him
But I love his dick of death

Tons of hits for killer X:  killer abs, killer glutes, killer ass, etc., and of course killer apps, killer deal, etc. This sense of killer even made it into OED2, but back then it had not spread to so many body-parts and to terms from technology and business and then to more general slang use (as in a killer idea / concept). The OED subentry:

attrib. or as adj. Very effective; excellent, ‘sensational’ (freq. applied to popular music). Cf. killer-diller n. slang.

All the cites are relatively recent and from the world of popular music: 1979 killer set, 1983 killer album, 1986 killer track.

(For an illustration of someone who embodies several killer properties in one package, see the Killer photo on my X blog, with the caption:

killer smile. killer dick.
killer bush.)

The hyperbolic extension of kill that lies behind of death and killer is given in OED2’s subentry under kill:

To overwhelm (a person) by a strong impression on the mind, as of admiration, astonishment, alarm, grief, etc.: to impress with irresistible force. Also, to convulse (someone) with laughter; to excite, thrill, delight. [cites from the early 18th century on]


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