Get Bent?
February 22, 2005 1:44 PM   Subscribe

What does the phrase "get bent" mean and what is its origin?
posted by dflemingdotorg to Society & Culture (20 answers total)
The Simpsons is the only place I've ever heard it. As for a specific meaning, I guess you'd just have to use your imagination.
posted by GeekAnimator at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2005

My google-fu turned up a number of possible answers.

One, it is a variant of "Don't get bent out of shape" indicating that you do want them to get bent out of shape.

Two, it is an oblique reference to getting screwed , i.e. getting bent over ...(on preview, what purtek said)

Three, it indicates that the person hopes your penis gets bent, which would cause a lot of pain.
posted by bove at 1:51 PM on February 22, 2005

I was wondering about the meaning myself when I caught a reference to it on the Simpsons.... google's closed-caption search '' reveals Flanders humerous interpretation:

From, "The Simpsons | Fat Man and Little Boy"
When Bart writes slogans on T-shirts, he catches the attention of Goose Gladwell, a gag-gift entrepreneur, and soon becomes a T-shirt mogul; Homer feels he no longer has a place in the family when Bart becomes the breadwinner.
Sun Jan 30 2005 at 9:30 PM PST - 30 minutes

at 13 minutes
Daddy, can I buy this one? Let's see. "Get Bent." Well, the only thing that could mean is "kneel down and pray." We'll take the whole box. Get Bent, everyone. This could get me out of a lot of sticky situations. I'll take a dozen. (Laughing) do you have a t-shirt with Calvin peeing on hobbes? Sorry. Ah. Well, what do you got him peeing on? Well, well, well. Selling t-shirts without a permit, and it looks like one of the lights in your sneakers is out.
posted by sdinan at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2005

Purtek's answer is the one that I'm most familar with.
posted by glyphlet at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2005

First, this phrase has been around at least since I was a kid, so we'll need a pre-1980 (at least) source.

Second, some basic Googling revealed that SCUBA divers use the two words together to refer to getting the bends (nitrogen sickness from surfacing too quickly). There are lots of pages with comments on "if you do X, you're likely to get bent".

It's interesting, but I'd need to see more evidence to believe that the term crossed over from SCUBA to slang. That's a pretty specific usage. However, knowing how often slang morphs out of military origins into civilian ones (SNAFU, etc), I could buy into some sort of scenario involving Navy service lingo spreading out into other maritime environments (yachting, merchant marine) and then, perhaps, finding its way into surfing.

It does have insulting sexual overtones; but those could have attached themselves to the phrase after the fact.
posted by Miko at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2005

My mom refers to it as slang from when she was a kid (she's in her mid-50s). It's always as in, "take a long walk off a short pier." Wishing an ill-will, but never sexualized.

She also uses the quaint, "Get Bent, Bently."
posted by Gucky at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2005

In 1920 slang it means get drunk or high.

In 1950's slang it means drop dead.
posted by caddis at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2005

In 1920 slang it means get drunk or high.

Like as in to go on a bender.
And to think I thought that seeing a man about a dog involved going to the bathroom.
posted by kenko at 2:42 PM on February 22, 2005

Anyone got the OED around?
posted by scazza at 3:11 PM on February 22, 2005

An alternate explanation...

Straight = Heterosexual
Bent = Homosexual

Fits in with the "You should get bent over, so someone can sodomize you on Christmas!" comment.
posted by banished at 3:16 PM on February 22, 2005

As I thought and according to Wikidictionary, bent is also a term for gay men in British slang. Who knows what it means now.
posted by scazza at 3:22 PM on February 22, 2005

In 1920 slang it means get drunk or high.

Actually that sense of bent goes back to the mid-19th century, according to the Cassell Dictionary of Slang, where it's the first definition. The others (working their way through the 20th century) are 'impoverished'; 'corrupt'; 'illegal, stolen'; 'spoiled, ruined'; 'eccentric'; 'sexually eccentric, esp. homosexual' (this from the '50s); 'angry, excited'; and 'addicted to drugs' (from the '80s).

Get bent, as "a general excl. of dismissal or contempt," goes back to the '60s (in campus use) according to Cassell, but the first citation in the Historical Dictionary of American Slang is:
1969 J. Bouton Ball Four 389: In high school [ca 1955]... "Get bent"... was used to put a guy down.
So if Bouton's memory can be trusted, it goes back to the '50s.
posted by languagehat at 3:45 PM on February 22, 2005

This is what I drudged out of the Online OED:

I posted definition #5 for the word, because that seemed to fit the best. Sorry for the formatting.

Bent, ppl a. (adjective, for people):

"5. fig. (cf. CROOKED a. 3). In various slang uses: a. Dishonest, ‘crooked’, criminal. Also as n. orig. U.S. b. Illegal; stolen. orig. U.S. c. Of things: out of order, spoiled. Of persons: eccentric, perverted; spec. homosexual (also as n.). (In quot. 1958 ‘faithless’.)

a. 1914 JACKSON & HELLYER Vocab. Criminal Slang 17 Bent, crooked; larcenous. Example: His kisser shows that he's bent. 1948 Sunday Pictorial 29 Aug. 6/5 A ‘bent screw’..a crooked warder who is prepared to traffic with a prisoner. 1958 Times 14 Feb. 3/5 What made the witness think the two officers were offering a bribe? Mitchell replied, ‘I had known for years that certain members of the Brighton police force were what we call bent.’ Ibid., There were plenty of ways in which bents could help. 1963 Ibid. 2 Feb. 9/6 Successful crime preventing does not make criminals give up; they simply change their methods, or as Mr. Brown said: ‘They stay bent but alter their tactics.’

b. 1930 E. H. LAVINE Third Degree (1931) iv. 39 For having sold a stolen or bent car to a complainant. 1955 P. WILDEBLOOD Against Law 151 He had got a short sentence for receiving stolen goods, which he swore he had not known to be ‘bent’.

c. 1930 BROPHY & PARTRIDGE Songs & Slang 1914-18 (ed. 2) 210 Bent, spoiled, ruined, e.g. ‘a good man bent’ or even ‘good tea bent’. 1942 BERREY & VAN DEN BARK Amer. Thes. Slang §143/4 Eccentric. Balmy, bats, bent, [etc.]. Ibid. §152/5 Insane; crazy... bent. 1956 I. ASIMOV 9 Tomorrows (1963) iii. 87 He's gone crazy... He was always a little bent. Now he's broken. 1957 RAWNSLEY & WRIGHT Night Fighter v. 75 Whenever a set became unserviceable in the air the code word used to notify ground control was to say that the weapon was ‘bent’. 1957 A. WILSON Bit off Map 29 ‘I shouldn't think you did know any Teddy boys, but if you did, I know what they'd call you{em}a f{em} bent, see.’..Mr. Fleet..reddened with fury; his reputation as a womaniser was known to everyone. 1958 F. NORMAN Bang to Rights III. 72 My bird's gone bent... She went case with some geezer now she's liveing [sic] with him. 1959 C. MACINNES Absolute Beginners 64 No one..cares..if you're boy, or girl, or bent, or versatile, or what you are. 1960 F. RAPHAEL Limits of Love I. v. 70 ‘Great thing about gay people...’ ‘Gay?’ Tessa said. ‘Bent, queer, you know. Homosexual.’"
posted by spinifex23 at 4:32 PM on February 22, 2005

Speaking as someone whose last name is Bent, I've heard it all too often throughout my life.
posted by picea at 5:44 PM on February 22, 2005

Speaking as someone whose last name is Bent, I've heard it all too often throughout my life.

Oh, so you're the one everyone's trying to reach.
posted by wolftrouble at 10:35 PM on February 22, 2005

What banished, scazza, and languagehat said. My only addition is that about five years ago I was drinking (I'm American) with a British guy at a bar, and the song "Bent" came on by Matchbox 20. Horrible song, of course, but I've always been curious as to how that song went over in the UK-- as my friend explained, "bent" is opposite of "straight." I had no idea, but anything to destroy Matchbox 20 is my cup o tea, so to speak.
posted by bardic at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2005

Bent means both illegal and homosexual (they are separate meanings). Interesting that the phrase "Bent as a 9 bob note" (meaning illegal or crooked or (more recently) homosexual) translates to the American "Queer as a three dollar bill"
posted by seanyboy at 12:48 AM on February 23, 2005

Thanks all. I had done some basic googling and got most of the answers here but I was wondering if there was one origin whence this phrase came.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 4:13 AM on February 23, 2005

Only languagehat's and spinifx's are definitive answers with sources cited. I'd put greatest weight on those. The Urban Dictionary is not a researched source, just a fun web page.
posted by Miko at 9:22 AM on February 23, 2005

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