Green’s Dictionary of Slang

boner n.3

[SE bone of contention]

1. (US) a serious mistake; esp. in phr. pull a boner

[US] Amer. Mag. June 200/1: Boner — a stupid play; a blunder in the science of the game .
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 20 July 10/2: He didn’t look around the field. It was a cold boner.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 19 Sept. [synd. col.] When the inexperienced badmen discovered their boner two days later, they [...] wrote him a letter of apology.
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 62: If it was a boner, let’s pick the bones out of it.
[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 2 Dec. [synd. col.] How did I make that boner about Woollcott’s ‘My Little Boy’ being in his Second Reader when it’s in his First?
[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 14 Apr. [synd. col.] What the infallible Pegler didn’t add was that the humiliating boner appeared in [...] his own sheet.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 9: The chiselers, with no independent means of their own, all made the same boner.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 187: Don’t repeat your boner.
[UK]Wodehouse Much Obliged, Jeeves 124: In signing on the dotted line with Florence I had made the boner of a lifetime.
[US]H. Roth From Bondage 183: Boy, that was a boner.

2. (US campus) a difficult examination.

[US] in Baker et al. CUSS.

In phrases

pull a boner (v.) (also …bone, …bonehead)

(US) to make a (serious) mistake.

[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 51: Bill Sullivan [...] told me not to pull no boner by refuseing to go where they sent me.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 119: Before he had a Chance to pull a Boner and suggest the prehistoric Euchre, all the Card Tables were whisked away.
[US]M.E. Smith Adventures of a Boomer Op. 48: You know what kind of a bone you always pull in an emergency, well, you let me do the talking in this case.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 37: Time, instead of working the healing wheeze, went and pulled the most awful bone and put the lid on it.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 24: Many of the criminals betray themselves by talking too much, or pulling boneheads.
[US]E. Clark Innocence Abroad 199: I consider that Mr. Stagg pulled a bone when he said Peter Whiffle was original – it couldn’t be more derivative.
[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 122: I felt I’d pulled a boner. When I saw Otto’s face I was sure of it.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 66: Right here is where we pulled a boner.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 63: He had a pretty good idea that he’d pulled a boner.
[US] ‘Sporting Life’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 163: Just bear in mind that you must do time / Whenever you pull a bone.
[US]S. King It (1987) 68: I pulled a hell of a boner, but I’ve got time to take it all back.
[US]W.T. Vollmann You Bright and Risen Angels (1988) 239: We can excuse a young man pulling a boner now and then.