[PW] Hockey term - "go" to mean fight

John Cowan cowan at mercury.ccil.org
Mon Jun 6 13:36:56 PDT 2016

Donna Halper scripsit:

> Regarding your example, I do see Boston Herald hockey writer Stanley
> Woodward saying that two players, one on the Boston Bruins and the
> other on the Montreal Canadiens, "went at each other" during the game
> that took place on 22 March 1927.  I assume there are earlier uses of
> the terminology, but that's the first one I could find.

Looking at COHA for "went at each other", I find it already in a
figurative sense in 1893:  "and then the two mothers, Mrs. D. and Mrs. K.,
went at each other and scolded terribly. And that also interested us
very much indeed."  The first literal use is in 1908 from the New York
Times: "enlisted men stood about the ringside while the combatants,
with boxing gloves such as the ships of the navy are supplied with,
went at each other."

But the expression is much older:  the OED gives (s.v. _go_ v., under
"go at") these quotations:

1675   Accomplish'd Lady's Delight 233   If the Fisher-Man espye him
[sc. the Salmon], he goeth at him with his Spear.

1761   Kept Mistress 58   Up they both jumped, and at it they went
pell mell.

The OED's first definition is "To attack, make an attack upon; (also)
to set about or deal with, esp. vigorously or enthusiastically."  So the
expression is already applicable to fighting in the 18C.

John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
If you understand, things are just as they are.
if you do not understand, things are just as they are.

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