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I'd like to talk about something that's always been in the back of my mind, but I never thought about it enough to merit a discussion. And that is, the word rimshot.

There are two very distinct definitions of rimshot, but yet there are (at least) three contexts in which I hear it used.

The first pertains to drumming. A rimshot is the act of hitting the rim of the drum and the drum head at the same time, creating a very loud, higher-pitched tone, as the stick itself doesn't dampen the sound as well.

The second pertains to basketball. A shot that hits the rim and bounces off is a rimshot.

The third context is in stand-up comedy. After a cliche or a joke involving a pun, for example, in written and spoken language, people will write or say "rimshot?"

Now, my question is, which definition bred the third usage? I can easily see both sides of it, but there is a discrepancy. If the comedy rimshot relates to drumming, then it doesn't make sense, because the sound that a drummer makes following a cheesy joke is not a rimshot, but just a regular hit or two, usually followed by a cymbal crash. This makes me think that the basketball analogy is more accurate: a joke that is almost funny, but doesn't quite make it in the metaphorical basket.

The strange thing, to me, is that most people, I think, asked with no explanation, would say that it refers to the drumming definition. Urban Dictionary seems to support this postulate (Sidenote: there is apparently another definition of a rimshot that I shall not discuss here, but let's just say don't scroll too far down on the UD page). Is this merely a misunderstanding of what a rimshot is? Or, another explanation I posit, did they used to really do rimshots before the shot->cymbal combo became symbolic for a cheesy joke?


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)
I've always understood it to refer to the percussion sequence, and I assume it just comes from someone getting the terminology wrong.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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