I thought his name was Warren?
December 5, 2018 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Does the phrase “Damn the man!” predate Empire Records? I feel like it has to, but I can’t find any information regarding the phrase’s origins. My Google-fu is not strong with this one.
posted by bluloo to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It was used by Sherlock Holmes, so it pre-dates Empire Records by at least 150 years.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:13 PM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes, it's a common phrase used when damning a specific man, but I don't know if was used to mean "fuck the system" before of Empire Records.
posted by chaiminda at 3:17 PM on December 5, 2018

Yeah, to clarify: interested in usage in the sense of “fuck the system.” Not interested in references to a specific man.
posted by bluloo at 3:53 PM on December 5, 2018

There is actually a book titled Damn the Man!: Slang of the Oppressed in America, published in 2010.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:56 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't have specifics on this, but it seems like the idea of "The Man" as a construct (e.g. "Don't go to work at your dad's company! That's what The Man wants you to do!") might have come out of the late-60s/early 70s counter-culture movement. Although I am basing this primarily on pop culture which referenced that time period but was not OF that time period, so take this with a grain of salt, maybe.
posted by helloimjennsco at 5:58 AM on December 6, 2018

might have come out of the late-60s/early 70s counter-culture movement.

The Wikipedia article for the phrase the Man has a citation for it meaning 'the powers that be' in 1969, and claims without citation that it was used to mean 'the police' going back to the 1950s.

"Colloquial use of the Man for 'the boss' is by 1918," says the usually reliable Etymonline, but if it was used to refer to a specific boss then that's not quite the same.

But so, yeah, I'd say "late-60s counterculture if not sooner." Which makes it hard to imagine that Empire Records was the first time someone put the pieces together and said "damn the man."
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2018

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