A phrase taken from a popular joke. To say someone is “in the barrel” or “taking a
” means it’s their
do an unpleasant task or to suffer an unpleasant experience.
is as follows:
A sailor on a Navy ship had been out to sea for weeks, and was beginning to go through
. Fed up with the lack of sex, he asked one of his shipmates what he did when the pressure was too much to take.
“Well, there’s a barrel with a hole in it near the mop storage. When it gets to be too much for us, we use that.”
So the sailor went over to the barrel and decided to give it a go. Finding it was better than he’d expected, he began using it regularly, and his problems seemed to vanish.
After a couple of weeks, his commanding officer began to take notice, and said, “You seem to be a lot more relaxed. What’s your secret?”
The sailor, embarrassed to give a straight answer, simply said he’d been getting better rest.
“Well good, sailor. You’re going to need it,” replied the officer. “Today’s your turn in the barrel.”
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This refers to an unpleasant experience, often involving physical or verbal assaults from other people. This is often used in the expression “(one’s)
” or “
“, with the implication that other persons have to go through this experience as well, and now it is one’s own turn.
This expression has apparently been frequently used by persons in the armed services, for example:
– used of US troops in Viet Nam under a long artillery siege
– used by astronauts to refer to press appearances and conferences, which they disliked
– used by a veteran of the Australian Navy to refer to sexual assaults and harassment of newer recruits
Other uses (including uses in fiction) have included being in jail, being investigated by the police, working the front desk at an FBI office, being subject to academic criticism, facing difficult audiences on the country music circuit, and having one’s stolen emails exposed to public view.
The origin of this expression is not clear. A person born in southern Indiana in 1922 reported that when he was a child, a game called “your turn in the barrel” involved one child standing in a barrel while the other children stood in a circle around him attempting to hit him by throwing dirt, fruit, and the like.
There is a “joke” about sailors taking turns in a barrel providing sexual gratification to their entire company, but this may postdate the term.
“It was his day. Once a year, every year, it was his
. Like every other agent on the ninth floor of the
Federal Building, Buck hated complaint duty..” – T. W.
, “Guardians of the Tomb”, 2002
“From an historical perspective, several experts in the game of reading have taken their ‘turn in the barrel’ , contributing to the think-tank of reading” – Robert L. Pabst, “The Think-Tank of Reading, or Is the Barrel Full?”, 1975
“If a bully decides he feels like kicking your ass, you are getting your ass kicked. Sometimes it happens for no reason at all except it’s just your turn in the barrel.” – Jay Mohr, “No Wonder My Parents Drank: Tales from a Stand-Up Dad”, 2010
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for Northerners during the late 19th Centuary.
A barrel would be placed in a public place with a selection of holes in it at different
. The contents of
would normally be a petty criminal who would have to spend a period of time “in the barrel”.
Local men would visit the barrel and insert their manhoods into the holes of the barrel until the petty criminal had performed an oral sex act on them.
Judge – “Mr Lock you have been found guilty of the theft of a
, do you have anything further to say?”
Mr Lock “Eh up t’honour I was jost a bit t’hungry”
Judge “that is no excuse! Guards take him forth from here and place him IN THE BARREL for 7 days and nights”
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