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I have a question about a word I’d never come across until the other day: sally. It seems the perfect word for what I’m trying to describe: to quip as a form of diversion. That is, to use humour as a defence mechanism.

If you look at the usage of this word, sally (in the form I want to use it) is a noun. I want its verb form. However, when you look at definitions for the verb form, they make no mention of its usage to quip as a diversion, only to make a military sortie or to set out from a place to do something.

Google searches reveal its verbal usage as above: he sallied forth, she sallies out. But I couldn’t find any examples of it as quipping in verb form.

So, my question is (when quipping as a defence mechanism, specifically) can one sally?

‘I sally.' 'He sallied.’ ’She is sallying again.’ ‘She sallies.’

Thx!

  • Avoid answering questions in comments. Post comments here only to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Other types of comment can be posted in the main chatroom or a chatroom created for the purpose. – MetaEd Jan 19 '18 at 20:06
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Yoichi Oishi Jan 22 '18 at 22:57
  • @YoichiOishi Understand. But does the conversation disappear? I can't see it when I follow your link, all I see is the original question with no conversation following. Thx. – GGx Jan 23 '18 at 12:12
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I think you are right to be cautious about using "sally" in figurative, non-military contexts. I have never in all my puff heard it used as a verb in the sense of making a witty remark. "Venture a sally" or something similar might be acceptable, but anything like "he sallied" would strike a very false note. For defensive quippery, I suggest perhaps "parry" (if in response to a humorous thrust by someone else), or use the noun "witticism", which suggests that it isn't really very funny. I suspect that trying to pack the meanings of both jocundity and defensiveness into a single word might be too much.

  • Thanks John, I think you are bang on, it is going to sound false and I will need to reword this conversation. It's a shame, I love finding that one perfect word that encapsulates a precise meaning, but when it comes to conversation, sounding natural must come first. I really appreciate your time. – GGx Jan 17 '18 at 8:05
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sally 3. (noun) a quick witticism; a bright retort; a quip

Source: Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary, unabridged, 2nd ed.

The noun usage is all I found on the term, with that sort of meaning. The implication is that sally isn't commonly used that way as a verb. It seems somewhat derogatory to use what could be a personal name, in such a fashion, which I suspect is the reason why it isn't done, normally.

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    Thanks Bread, I appreciate anyone taking the time to answer, but I wasn't after its definition. This is a discussion on its usage in the verb form, which has digressed into a debate about whether the word should be used at all, and whether there's a suitable alternative. Thanks, though! – GGx Jan 15 '18 at 15:55
  • You're welcome, I was curious anyway. The noun usage is all I found on the term, with that sort of meaning. The implication is that sally isn't commonly used that way as a verb. It seems somewhat derogatory to use what could be a personal name, in such a fashion, which I suspect is the reason why it isn't done, normally. – Bread Jan 15 '18 at 16:08

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