1. Ben Zimmer says:

    I would guess this originated in Hollywood (as in the 1985 cite above or the MWCD11 example, “the movie stiffed at the box office”). Here’s an early cite for the general sense of “fail”:

    1976 Craig Karpel Playboy “Failure Is Its Own Reward” in Dazed and Confused (1993) 40 I am here to say a few words about how everything has bombed, flunked, stiffed, flopped and otherwise gone down the tube.

  2. So you say this just to tweak me for missing it in Merriam-Webster’s 11th edition? : )

    Your guess is a good one; this is one of those areas where access to all the old LA trade rags would come in handy.

  3. I did see that and had the same doubts about it you do. The temptation of fiddling with one’s own writing from the past is too great, as I well know.

  4. Ben Zimmer says:

    I think you missed an example of “stiff out” from that 1972 piece in Phonograph Record:

    He was replaced in reasonably short order by a Swedish singer named Mickael Rikfors, and a slow-paced single called ‘The Baby’ was released in March of this year, gaining the distinction of not only stiffing out in the U.S., as usual, but bombing rather badly in England as well (relatively, that is; it did make the top 30).

  5. Ben, you’re a cite-hunting machine. I’ve amended the 1972 quotation.

  6. Ben Zimmer says:

    Another rockcrit cite from 1973… from Robert Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” review of Billy Joel’s The Piano Man (as it appears in his Rock Albums of the ‘70s (searchable on Amazon):

    In 1971, Joel’s Cold Spring Harbor was recorded in the vicinity of 38-rpm to fit all the material on — he’s one of these eternal teenagers who doesn’t know how to shut up. Stubborn little bastard, too — after his bid stiffed, he worked a Los Angeles cocktail lounge soaking up Experience.

    The original CG review from the Village Voice has not yet been posted to Christgau’s website, so it’s possible that this was subsequently edited for the record guide (published in 1981).

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