glory hole

From Gregory Ward in e-mail, a link to this RantSports story (” “I want me some glory hole” says Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones” — note ethical dative — by Jesus Flores 7/30/12), beginning:

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones while speaking to the media said, “I’ve been here 23 years. I’ve been here when it was glory hole days and when it wasn’t. I want me some glory hole.”

The reference raised some eyebrows and caused some chuckles.

Apparently, Jones was making reference to the oil and gas industry and not an explicit reference, as Cowboys public relations director Rich Dalrymple quickly clarified.

In response to Dalrymple’s explanation however, Jones said laughing, “that’s news to me” reverting it back to a crude joke.

The term “glory hole” in the oil industry refers to the hole drilled, from which oil flows and rises to the surface through flow lines and to the production facility.

An entertaining ambiguity, which RantSports doesn’t explain.

From my XBlog:

Now, glory hole (or glory-hole). OED2 doesn’t have the sexual sense, only possibly related earlier senses referring to storage spaces containing miscellaneous objects, to compartments on a ship, to a large cavernous opening into a mine, and to a hole in the side of a glass furnace. Wikipedia mentions these senses, but it also has an entry for the sexual sense. The expression’s history in this sense is still unclear.

From Wikipedia:

A glory hole (also spelled gloryhole and glory-hole) is a hole in a wall, or other partition, often between public lavatory stalls or adult video arcade booths for people to engage in sexual activity or observe the person in the next cubicle while one or both parties masturbate. The partition maintains anonymity. Body parts including fingers, tongue and penis may be used for anonymous oral, vaginal and/or anal intercourse.

The etymology is a morass of an original sense having to do with mud and what looks like repeated inventions of a compound with the first element glory. From OED2 under glory-hole:

Etymology:  In sense 1, perhaps related to glory v.2 (compare Scots glaury adj. s.v. glar n.) [glaur Sc. and north. dial. ‘slime, mud’, of unkn. orig.; glar, glar v. ‘to make muddy’]; if so, sense 2 is probably later in origin, and suggested by the formal coincidence of the first element with glory n.

The senses:

1. a. slang. (See quot. 1845).

1845   T. Cooper Purgatory of Suicides p. iv,   A filthy, stifling cell to which prisoners are brought from the gaol on day of trial, and which, in the language of the degraded beings who usually occupy it, is called the ‘glory hole’.

b. dial. A receptacle (as a drawer, room, etc.) in which things are heaped together without any attempt at order or tidiness. [from 1825 on]

c. Naut. colloq. Any of various compartments of a ship, as:  (a) the lazaretto;  (b) one or more rooms between or below decks used as sleeping-quarters for stewards. [from 1839 on]

2. Glass-making. (See quots.) [giving off heat and light]

1849   A. Pellatt Curiosities of Glass Making 65   The large goods receive a final reheating at the mouth of a pot heated by beech-wood, and called the Glory Hole.

3. A large cavernous opening or pit into a mine; an open quarry. Hence as v. intr., to carry on surface mining. N. Amer. [from 1902 on]

4. Army slang. (See quots.)

1925   E. Fraser & J. Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words 105   Glory hole, a colloquial expression for any small billet or dug-out.

Amplifications of the slang senses in Green’s Dictionary of Slang, under glory hole:

[Standard English]  anywhere in which things are heaped together without any attempt at order < glaur ‘to make muddy’

a small, holding cell in court buildings, in which prisoners are kept during their trial [1845]

a meeting place used by the Salvation Army [1887 on]

(Irish) the space under the stairs, or similar confined soace (a space of punishment for badly behaved children) [1976 on]

(US) a bar frequented by homosexuals [1925 on; plays on gay sense]

(orig. US) the vagina [c1930 on]

(gay) a hole cut in the side of a public toilet cubicle; one man pushes his penis through while another, anonymous, man fellates him [1949 on]

So it looks like oilmen have innovated yet another sense of the compound, referring to a hole that provides a kind of glory, high production. Meanwhile, toilet glory holes provide a different kind of glory. (And vaginas another, etc.) None of this has to do with mud.

The lexicographer’s life is full of complexities.

Video here:


5 Responses to “glory hole”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    Interesting phrasing in the RantSports piece: “not an explicit reference”. Here “explicit” has drifted from “sexually explicit” to “sexual” (or maybe “adult”, “kinky”).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      This drift has been commented on several times on the ADS mailing list. It was probably bound to happen.

      OED2, in 1989, didn’t have any clear cites for this usage, but the revision almost surely will have some.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Victor Steinbok reports yet another sense, a technical term for dry-season draining holes in dams, as in this video of a glory holy in Lake Berryessa (in Napa County CA), which comes with the warning:

    never swim near a water hole like this. If you do see one of these, you’re too close, and you better paddle your butt off to get away!

  3. Another notable business name « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the various senses of glory hole, see my posting here (with a link to […]

  4. noisette | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the term, see my posting on it (with a link to a posting on AZBlogX); the history of the term in the sexual sense is […]

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