Q: I’ve been hearing people say things like “He gives good meeting” and “Do you give good meeting?” I find it strange that “give” is used here, and even stranger that it’s used without an article. Thanks for any insight.
A: One might conduct, hold, lead, or run a meeting, but it’s not idiomatic to “give a meeting,” let alone to “give good meeting.”
The usage isn’t in standard dictionaries, though we’ve found quite a few examples of “give good meeting” and similar expressions in books, film, and on the web.
The earliest example of “give good meeting” that we’ve found is a comment by a guest at a Hollywood party in Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall:
“Not only is he a great agent, but he really gives good meeting.”
From the examples we’ve seen, the expression can mean either to be good at running meetings or good at taking part in them. Where does it come from?
In “Language and Sexuality,” an article in Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia (1994), Martha Cornog suggests that the slang expression “give good head” inspired “give good meeting” as well as “give good telephone”:
“An interesting reversal of euphemism has occurred with the phrase ‘give good head’ (be skilled at oral sex), since the same construction has been generalized to produce such phrases as ‘give good meeting’ and ‘give good telephone.’ ”
The result, she writes, “has been to imbue nonsexual activities with sexual implications as well as to get a laugh for inventive wordplay.”
The Oxford English Dictionary describes “to give head” as a slang usage meaning “to perform fellatio or cunnilingus (on a person). Also with qualifying adjective, as to give good head, etc.”
The dictionary’s first example for the slang usage is from Sideman, a 1956 novel by Osborn Duke: “She’s wild, man! Gives the craziest head!”
The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, edited by J. E. Lighter, has many expressions “reminiscent of (and patterned after) give head.” Here are a few:
“Now look at Tony! He gives good belt!” (From The Dream Girls, a 1972 book by William Murray. An excerpt was published in Cosmopolitan in November 1971.)
“When she finished, the artist said, ‘You give great studio.’ ” (From a 1982 issue of the journal American Speech.)
“Miami does give good sushi.” (From the March 19, 1988, issue of TV Guide.)
“Rush [Limbaugh] gives great spiel.” (From the Sept. 23, 1991, issue of Time.)
Finally, here’s a recent Hollywood example that we found in a Sept. 8, 2016, movie-industry glossary on Vanity Fair’s website:
“Good in a Room–Applies mainly to writers; it means you give good meeting. A huge compliment for scribes who tend to live up to the stereotype that they’re anti-social nerds.”