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I think I first heard the slang “hairy” in Apocalypse Now. The American Heritage says: “Fraught with difficulties; hazardous: a hairy escape; hairy problems.” In the anoted Wordworth edition of Joyce’s Dubliners it says, “too hairy: experienced, canny.” Have you ever heard this slang to be used in this sense? Joyce’s sentence reads thus: “She doesn’t know my name. I was too hairy to tell her that.” Could it be that the editor(s) made a mistake and it was “it” instead of “I” which then would mean closer to the sense we know of the slang? or what?

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We're talking Joyce here, normal rules do not apply.

margaret May 10, 2005, 6:18am

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While I can easily understand the term as a reference to (sexual) maturity, it's a new one to me, also.

speedwell2 December 12, 2004, 7:19pm

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"hairy" is usually in reference to something that is tagled/problematic and is negative.

The main reference to it is usually "a hairy situation". It just means something that is not easily solved or possibly dangerous.

This of course is the American usage, James Joyce is a crazy Irishman who died long ago, and while I'm positive his usage made sense to him, I have never once heard "hairy" used in the context you found.

familyguy December 12, 2004, 3:22pm

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