Dictionary of Catch Phrases
See: what does ‘A’.
‘In New Society, mid-1977, there was an article by a Newcastle journalist, who had been arrested at an industrial-
dispute “demo”. He spent the night in cells and was fascinated by the graffito A.C.A.B. all over the walls. A fellow inmate,
more used to the situation, explained, “All coppers are bastards”. This has now appeared on walls near the Loughborough
police station. Another written c.p., like “—rule(s) O.K.”’ (P.B., 1977). By a ‘written c.p.’ is meant a catchphrase customarily
written rather than spoken; yet only marginally so. And the date of A.C.A.B.? In this form, the phrase hardly precedes 1970,
but, spoken in full, it existed at least as early as the 1920s. Basically, however, all coppers are bastards, q.v., is a mere var.
of ’ [All those in authority] are bastards’: an age-old expression of resentment against the restrainers, the keepers of law and
order, no matter how inoffensive, how innocent the latter may be.
Tell that to the Marines! It occurs in Shadwell, The Sullen Lovers, 1668, Act IV: ‘Ninny. Pshaw, pshaw, ad’autre,
I can’t abide you should put your tricks upon me’—glossed thus by George Saintsbury in his edn of four Shadwell
plays: ‘I.e. “à d’autres” (“tell someone else that”).’ It was a specially fashionable French catchword among English coxcombs
and coquettes of the time. See Dryden’s Marriage à la Mode, 1673. In short, fashionable in the fashionable London of c. 1660–80.
See: hey, A.
See: excuse my a.
See: don’t come the old.
See: officers have.
See: give it back.
See: you’re all a.
about as high as three penn’orth (or pennyworth) of coppers.
C.p. applied to very short persons: c. 1870–1950. As sixpenn’orth it had occurred in Robert Surtees, Jorrocks’s Jaunts and Jollities, 1838, as R.C. reminds me.
about as much use as two men gone sick, with prec. he’s either stated or understood, is a British Army c.p., dating from either during or very soon after WW2. (P.B., 1974.) See also headache…
absolutely, Mr Gallagher?—Positively, Mr Sheean! had ‘some vogue in US from 1920s, from the vaudeville team of
Gallagher and Sheean. Virtually extinct by 1950s’ (R.C., 1977). It spread to Aus., where I heard it in 1920s, and presumably also
to Can. and the UK.
Abyssinia! belongs to ONE-WORD CATCH PHRASES. It means ‘I’ll be seein(g) you’ and dates from the Abyssinian War,
1935–6. P.B.: but might it not have arisen from the earlier, British, campaign of 1899, against the ‘Mad Mullah’, or even Gen.
Napier’s expedition of 1868? J.W.C. remarks, 1977, ‘In US, much older than the Abyssinian War; I remember it clearly from
my high-school classmates in the early ‘20s’. Very much in the line of schoolboy puns of the Alaska=I’ll ask her;
Jamaica=Did you make her?; and dip your Turkey in Greece [grease] type.
See: since Auntie: what would happen.
accidentally on purpose. Only apparently accidental, but really—and often maliciously—on purpose: since c. 1880 in Brit,
and since c. 1885 in US, according to W & F, who add that, in the latter, it was ‘in popular student use c. 1940’.
accidents will happen in the best regulated families. See it happens….
according to plan was, in WW1 communiqués, a distressingly frequent excuse for failure, e.g. an enforced retreat; it soon
became used ironically for anything, however trivial, that did not go according to plan. ‘Oh, nonsense, old man! All according
to plan, don’t you know?’ (The Germans, in their communiqués, used an equivalent: planmässig.) In WW2, there was the
similar phrase, withdrawing to a prepared position. In the US, precisely the same process took place—but during the latter
half of WW2 and after (R.C., 1977). Occ. satirised in the absurdity of a strategic advance to the rear (A.B., 1978). Cf.
See: that accounts. acid.
See: don’t come the a.
See: I acknowledge.
See: you’ll come.
See: three acres; wider.
See: may all your kids.
See: everybody wants; get into; get your act.
act of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen! See time, gentlemen, please!
act to follow—a hard or a tough. (Usu. prec. by he’s or that’s.) ‘Originally, and probably before 1920, referring to an
outstandingly successful vaudeville act which might well cast a shade over the following act, but since at least 1930, applied
to any outstanding performance or especially able person. Often carries the implication, “I’ll try to equal his success, but
don’t blame me if I fail.”’ (R.C., 1978). P.B.: some use in UK since c. 1975. Cf follow that!
act your age! Act naturally—not as if you were much younger than, in fact, you are: adopted, c. 1920, from US, where it had
an alternative—be your age!, likewise adopted. (DSUE; Berrey.) ‘The Australian senses for both include “don’t be gullible”
“don’t be naïve”’ (Neil Lovett, 1978), See also be your age! and grow up!
See: sharp’s; slice; that’s where the a.; this is where.
See: born a gentleman.
See: as the actress.
See: up a shade.
See: ever since.
See: it adds.
See: tap the a.
See: even the A.; and:
Admiralty could not be more arch-the. ‘The Guardian, 2 Dec. 1977, in a notice of a new London revue that apparently
opened rather coyly, has “The Admiralty, as they used to say, could not be more arch”’ (P.B.). This distinctively London c.p.
of very approx. 1925–60 was clearly based on the adj. arch—teasingly, or affectedly, playful—and the Admiralty Arch, one of
London’s architectural landmarks. Among c.pp., such deft witticisms are regrettably scarce.
See: I acknowledge.
advancing in an easterly direction. (Often prec. by again.) This var. of according to plan, q.v., was ‘used all too often in
the [N. African] desert [in 1940–3], the enemy being, of course, to the west of us-we hoped. The ultimate in cynicism was
“we shall fight to the last man and the last round of ammunition and then withdraw to previously prepared positions”. The
Germans were even worse, making official bombast out of private humour’ (Peter Sanders, 1978; he served there).
See: don’t mock.
See: don’t touch.
See: he that is; my back.
See: ‘tis only I; who’s afraid.
after his end (—he’s). This is a C20 workmen’s c.p., applied to a man ‘chasing’ a woman, end connoting ‘tail’, as the var.
after his hole makes clear.
after the Lord Mayor’s show; or, in full, after the Lord Mayor’s show comes the shit-cart. Orig. (late C19) a Cockney
c.p. applied to the cleaning-up (esp. of horse-dung) necessary after the Lord Mayor of London’s annual procession and soon extended to any comparable situation; hence in WW1 it was, mostly on the Western Front, addressed to a man returning from leave, esp. if he were just in time for a ‘show’—as ‘the troops’, with a rueful jocularity, described an attack. Among civilians, it is extant, although not in cultured or highly educated circles. after you, Claude—no, after you, Cecil! Characterizing an old-world, old-time, courtesy, this exchange of civilities occurred in an ‘ITMA’ show, produced by the BBC in (I seem to remember) 1940. Although it was already, in 1946, slightly ob., yet it is still, in the latish 1970s, far from being†.
The Can. version, as Dr Douglas Leechman informed me in 1959, is after you, my dear Alphonse-no, after you, Gaston, with var. after you, Alphonse (Leechman, 1969, ‘In derision of French bowing and scraping’)—and was, by 1960, slightly ob., and by 1970, very; current also in US, where, however, it often took the form, you first, my dear Alphonse (or Alfonso). Note that all of them were spoken in an ingratiating manner.
The latter form, US and derivatively also Can., has attracted much nostalgic attention, mostly from the US. Four days after this book’s appearance in the UK, W.J.B. wrote: “The characters Alphonse and Gaston were created by the US cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper [1857–1937] for his comic strip “Alphonse and Gaston”. Readers of this strip [its heyday was 1902–4, with occ. appearances for a year or two later] often made deep bows to a friend and said “After you, my dear Alphonse” and the person addressed would reply “After you, my dear Gaston”.’ J.W.C. soon commented that ‘it had a very long life, till c. 1925, and I’m not sure that it is yet quite extinct.’ And then Shipley referred to both Coulton Waugh, who, in The Comics, 1947, noted that these two elegant Frenchmen had become ‘national figures’; and to Jerry Robinson, who, in The Comics: an Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art, 1974, regards this as the first of innumerable phrases and words that were to contribute to the American idiom. It was, said Waugh, a comic illustration of ‘the inefficiency of over-politeness’. As a sidelight, Mr Eric Townley has told me that after you, Alphonse ‘was quite wittily used for the title of a jazz record made in 1957, in which the instrumentation was two trumpets, two trombones, two tenor saxes, plus rhythm section. First the two trumpet players alternate with each other in 12-bar solos, each taking three such solos, then the two trombones, and so on. A musical Alphonse and Gaston!’
And R.C. has noted that a metaphorical Alphonse and Gaston often implied ‘mere buck-passing’. In general, however, Alphonse and Gaston ‘are immortalised in the American idiom…as a universally understood symbol of excessive politeness.’
P.B.: it would appear, then, that the Claude and Cecil of ‘Itma’ were derived, consciously or not, from Opper’s memorable originals. after you I come first is a US var. [P.B.: ? perversion] of the prec. (Berrey.) Cf: after you is manners implies the speaker’s consciousness, usu. joc. and ironic, of inferiority: since late C17; by 1900, ob. — and by 1940, virtually †. As so often happens, the earliest printed record occurs in S, 1738 (Dialogue II): ‘Oh! madam: after you is good manners.’ Elliptical for: ‘For me to come after you—to make way for you—is only right.’ after you, miss, with the two two’s and the two b’s.
See: two white… after you, my dear Alphonse (or Alfonso).
See: after you, Claude. after you with the po, Jane! A joc. elab. of ‘After you with (this or that)!’ ‘From mockery of bedroom usage of phrase of bygone days of outdoor privies. Early C20, perhaps late C19’ (L.A., 1976). I’d date it as c. 1880–1920 in literal use, and in burlesque allusion for a few years more. after you with the push! A street—esp. London—c.p. addressed no less politely than ironically to one who has rudely pushed his way past the speaker: c. 1900–14. Ware. after you with the trough! Addressed to someone who has belched and implying not only that he has eaten too fast but also that he has the manners, or the lack of manners, expectable of a pig: orig., c. 1930 or a little earlier, in the N. Country and still, in 1970 anyway, used mostly there. again.
See: off again; phantom; pick him; play it; Richard’s; sold again; spray it; that boy; you can say. against my religion—it’s or that’s (or some specified activity). A joc. excuse, as in e.g. ‘It’s against my religion to partake of alcohol before the noon gun sounds, but since you’re twisting my arm…’, or ‘No, it’s against my religion to subscribe to raffles, but seeing as it’s you selling the tickets…’; perhaps orig. Services’, but anyway heavy bar-side humour: since mid C20.
In the same gen. field is the c.p. used to parry an invitation to do something risky, for which against my religion might well be used instead: (Sorry, but) I’m a devout coward. (P.B.) age.
See: act your age; and: age before beauty is mostly a girl’s mock courtesy addressed to an old—or, at best, an elderly—man: late C19–20, but rarely heard after (say) 1960.
On entering a room, two people would joke:
‘Age before beauty!’
‘No, dust before the broom.’
(With thanks to Mrs Shirley M.Pearce, 1975.)
P.B.: this entry in the 1st ed. provoked a number of responses, the first being my own, while proof-reading the work, that usage had, by 1940, come to be extended, esp. as a jocularity between almost any pair of people. E.P.’s further notes continue: Peter Sanders, 1978, writes ‘Also (one girl to another) “age before innocence”, a bitchy c.p. to which the counter is “pearls before swine”’; and Prof. Harold Shapiro reminds me that this counter originated as a characteristic retort by Dorothy Parker (1893–1967). The phrase is still current in Aus. (Neil Lovett, in The National Times, 23–28 Jan. 1978) [as it is in UK: P.B.]. A further 1978 commentary on its US usage comes from Mr George A.Krzymowski of New Orleans: ‘In his A Treasury of American Folklore, 1944, its editor, drawing on Clifton Johnson’s What They Say in New England, 1896, has this: —When two boys in school go for a drink to the water pail at the same time, number one hands the glass to number two and says “Age before beauty”. Number two takes it, and says, “Men before monkeys”. Number one finishes the dialogue and keeps up his end by responding, “The dirt before the broom”’.
But, for Brit, usage, the most illuminating comment I have received is this from the Dowager Lady Gainford, 1979: ‘I am now 78 and I have never heard the phrase used in the sense [above]…. I have always heard it used by an older woman to a younger who stands aside to let her go first. It is a pretty and graceful way of acknowledging the courtesy—and of accepting it —instead of the two standing outside a doorway saying “After you”—“No, after you” and so on. My aunts and other older women used this phrase to me when I was a girl and young woman, and I still use it to women younger than myself. I can’t
ever remember anyone using it in the rather ugly, faintly malicious way suggested by your entry. Where can it have come
from? The elderly man might well say it to the pretty young thing: but surely not the other way round?’
age of miracles is past—the was contentiously used by free-thinkers during C18, challengingly by agnostics during C19 and
by all cynics and most sceptics in C20. By (say) 1918, it had become a cliché; by 1945 or 1946, it was so often employed,
both derisively and in such varied applications, that since then it has been also a c.p. A manifest miracle, yet I’ve never seen it
posed, is recorded in the penultimate paragraph of some of my best friends are Jews.
P.B.: I suggested to E.P. that just as frequent in later C20 is the delighted and surprised exclam. the age of miracles is NOT past, on the sometimes minor, but nevertheless gratifying, occasions when this is discovered. He agreed, as did Michael Goldman, who, in 1978, supplied the var. the time of miracles is not past. agents.
See: I have my a. Agnes.
See: I don’t know whether. agony.
See: ee, it was. agree.
See: I couldn’t agree. ah! que je can be bête! What a fool—or, how stupid—I am! This c.p. of c. 1899–1912 is, by Redding Ware, classified as ‘half-society’, by which he presumably means ‘the fashionable section of the demi-monde’. Macaronic: Fr. que, how, and je, I, and bête, stupid. ah there! ‘What can be more revolting than phrases like Whoa, Emma; Ah there!; Get there Eli; Go it, Susan. I’ll hold your bonnet; Everybody’s doing it; Good night, Irene; O you kid! in vogue’—that is, in the US—‘not long ago.’ Thus McKnight. Cf: ah there, my size, I’ll steal you. In a footnote on p. 566 of the 4th edn, 1936, HLM includes this phrase among half a dozen of which he says that when the ‘logical content’ of the phrase is sheer silliness the populace quickly tires of it: ‘Thus “Ah there, my size, I’ll steal you”. “Where did you get that hat?” [q.v.]…and their congeners were all short-lived.’ Obviously it’s US, but, so far, I’ve been unable to determine, even approximately, how long it did last—or precisely when. Cf. that’s my size. aha, me proud beauty! ‘Roughly, “Now I’ve got you [a woman] where I want you!” Orig. (late C19?) quoted from, or at least epitomising the sexual ethos of, some old-time theatrical villain but, since 1920s or earlier, often used only for comic effect. Often accompanied by a moustache-twirling gesture. Certainly US, prob. also Brit. Now all but extinct?’ (R.C., 1978), Yes; Surrey-side, or Transpontine, Melodrama since c. 1890 or perhaps even 1880; † by 1945. ahead.
See: if you want to get. aid.
See: what’s this in aid of. ail.
See: good for what. aim.
See: no ambition; we aim. ‘ain’t’ ain’t grammar is a humorous phrase, elicited by someone’s use of ain’t, as e.g. in ‘That ain’t funny’: since c. 1920. On its usage in US, R.C. wrote, 1977, ‘A much more elaborate version was current in my schooldays (late 1920s): “Ain’t ain’t a good word to use, that’s why it ain’t in the dictionary, that’s why I ain’t gonna use ain’t any more”.’ But whether so long a version can be classified as a c.p. is debatable. ain’t coming on that tab, usu. prec. by I. (I) don’t agree to that, or with it: orig. Harlem jive talk, very rapidly spread to popular music, thence to the US world of entertainment: c. 1938–50. (The New Cab Calloway’s Hepsters Dictionary, 1944, which adds: ‘Usually abbreviated to “I ain’t coming”’.) ain’t it a fact? and ain’t it the truth? are US phrases dating c. 1910—or earlier—and recorded in Berrey; the latter is also recorded by McKnight. Both are exclamatory rather than interrogative. R.C., 1977: ‘Usually [it has] a certain rueful overtone —one wishes it were not a fact. Now ob.’ ain’t it a shame, eh? ain’t it a shame? ‘Another ITMA phrase, spoken by Carleton Hobbs as the nameless man who told banal tales (“I waited for hours in the fish queue…and a man took my plaice”) and always prefaced and concluded them with “ain’t it a shame?”’ (VIBS). ain’t it grand to be blooming well dead!—current in the 1930s, but naturally WW2 killed it-comes from a Leslie Sarony song of the period. (Noble, 1976.) Clearly a pun on ‘Ain’t it grand (just) to be alive!’ ain’t love grand! expresses pleasure, orig. at being in love, derivatively in other situations; and often either ironically or derisively. US at first (and still so), it became, c. 1930, also Brit.; I heard it, 1919 or 1920, in Aus. Cf: ain’t Nature grand (? or !) is a ‘c.p. apposite to anything from illegitimate offspring to tripping over a muddy path’ (L.A., 1974): late C19–20. ain’t nobody (or no one) here but us chickens! prec. by there, ‘is applied to an occasion when unexpectedly few persons are present, but may also be used with the implication “and everybody else had better stay away!”’ (P.B., 1976): adopted in UK c. 1950, from the US, where it had existed prob. since late or latish C19 and was based on a story about a chicken-thief surprised by the owner, who calls ‘Anybody there?’ and is greeted by this resourceful reply. Of the story itself, several variations inevitably exist, and the line became, c. 1950, the chorus of a popular song. That the c.p. is extant appears from this
allusion in Frank Ross, Sleeping Dogs, 1978: ‘And no heroics, O.K.? If anyone comes knocking, there ain’t no one here but
ain’t sayin(g) nothin(g) is an American Negro phrase referring to a matter or person of little merit, respect or value.
Synonym: ’tain’t no big thing, q.v. Recorded in The Third Ear, 1971. Apparently since c. 1950, perhaps a decade earlier.
(With thanks to M.Paul Janssen.)
ain’t that a laugh? Well, that really is a joke: US: C20. (Moe, 1975.)
ain’t that it? This confirms the truth of a statement; in short, telling it ‘like it is’—Cf tell it like it is, and the Brit, equivalent
well, this is it!, qq.v. American Negro: since (?) mid-C20. Recorded in The Third Ear, 1971.
ain’t that nothin’! implies a usu. irritated displeasure, is characteristically US, dates from c. 1920, and derives from—and
forms—the opposite of the next. R.C., 1977, ‘the phrase is dead and buried, and unlamented’.
ain’t that something—or, in rural dialect, somepin’! Indicative of considerable pleasure, this pleasantly terse US c.p. dates
from c. 1918. (Berrey.) J.W.C., 1977, glosses ‘Admiration rather than pleasure generally’. Cf. isn’t that something.
ain’t that the limit? Can you beat that?: US: C20. (Moe, 1975.)
ain’t that the truth? Emphatic var. of ain’t it a fact?: id.: ibid.
ain’t we got fun (? or !) This late C19–20 US c.p. roughly answers to the Brit. We don’t get (or haven’t got) much money, but
we do see life! (Moe, 1975.) It ‘owes its arrival to a popular song of that title’ (Benny Green, in Spectator, 10 Sep. 1977);
Fain, 1977, cites the relevant lines: ‘In the morning, in the evening, ain’t we got fun!/Not much money but, oh honey, ain’t we
got fun!’, and adds that the words and music were by Richard A.Whiting, in a revue, Satires of 1920, prod, by Arthur West.
The title recurred in a couple of motion-picture musicals of the 1950s. Prof. Fain cites American Popular Songs, ed. David
Ewen, 1966. R.C., also 1977, declared it to be ‘moribund, at least’.
ain’t you got no couf? Have you no manners, no savoir-faire, no dress-sense, etc.?: army: early 1970s. Since couf represents
the † couth of uncouth, cf the formation of ain’t ain’t grammar, a deliberate illiteracy. (P.B., 1974.)
ain’t you got no homes to go to?
See: time, gentlemen, please.
ain’t you right! This US c.p. was ‘circulating in the year 1920’ (McKnight), esp. among students; it seems to have died out
ain’t you the one though! is a UK ‘deflationary exclamation’, orig. and mostly Cockney: late C19–20. (A reminder from R.C.,
1977.) P.B.: contrast the usu. admiring ‘Ooh, you are a one!’, of someone mildly daring.
ain’t you (or yer) wild you (or ye’) can’t get at it? was, c. 1910–30, loudly and jeeringly intoned, at young girls passing, by
Cockney adolescent youths, as Julian Franklyn told me in 1968. From the louts, who usu. added yer muvver’s sewn yer draws
up, it ascended, c, 1920, to Cockney children as a ‘taunting call, especially by children able to keep some desired object to
themselves’ (L.A., also 1968).
See: come up for; give it air; that sure; you’ll have no.
See: they can make.
See: don’t be an A.
See: you’ll have no.
See: I had ‘em.
See: beats Akeybo.
See: you know me.
See: remember the A.
alas, my poor brother! A generalisation of a famous Bovril (beef extract) advertisement, which can be dated late C19—earlyish
20, to judge by this courteous clarification from ‘The Bovril Bureau. News, views and recipes’, Messrs Suson Deacon, in a
letter, 1977, from Miss Judy Regis: ‘“Alas, My Poor Brother” is the most famous of the early Bovril advertisements: it was
designed by W.H.Caffyn and first appeared as a poster in 1896’. It showed a fine-looking bull mourning the brother
quintessenced in a tin of Bovril. (The phrase was recorded in 1927 by the late Prof. W.E.Collinson in his valuable book; I
remember seeing it in the Strand Magazine, where so many famous advertisements appeared— and not a few c.pp.
originated.) Cf. prevents that sinking feeling, q.v.
Alderman Lushington is concerned and Lushington is his master, respectively ‘Well, he drinks, you know’ and ‘He’s a
hopeless drunkard’—indeed Lushington (or lushington) soon came to mean ‘drunkard’. The former belongs to c. 1780–1900,
the latter to c. 1825–90. Perhaps a pun on the low-slang lush, strong liquor, and Lushington, the brewer; with influence from
the City of Lushington, a convivial society that, flourishing c. 1750–1895, is recorded by OED. This use of concerned occurs
in several C18–19 c.pp.
’alf (orig. spelt ’arf) a mo, Kaiser! belongs to the years 1915–18: it was, in fact, a 1915–16 recruiting poster thus captioned,
the picture showing ‘a “Tommy” lighting a cigarette prior to unslinging his rifle and going into action. The catch phrase was
widely adopted in England’ (F & G). Cf. Kitchener wants you. The phrase survived, in civilian use, until the late 1930s, and
not only in UK.
See: knock three times: up Alice’s.
See: from arsehole.
Alice, where art thou? ‘was the title of a Victorian song by Alfred (“I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls”) Bunn… It was simply
[this] title that became a sort of catch phrase’ (Christopher Fry, 1978). A true c.p.: I have known it since c. 1908, but it had
been one for 70 or more years before that. By 1950 it was ob.; yet even by 1978, not †. A famous theatrical manager, Alfred
Bunn (? 1796–1860) was known as ‘poet Bunn’; he wrote and translated libretti, and produced the operas of M.W.Balfe,
including The Bohemian Girl, which, 1843, contained the song ‘I dreamt…’ Alice, where art thou? is enshrined in ODQ.
alive and well and living in…
See: God is alive and well…
See: catch ’em all; still a.; two brothers.
See: that’s all; you’re all.
See: you’re all a.; like shit.
all alive and kissing.
See: still alive and kissing.
all alone (or all by (one)self) like a country dunny is an Aus. c.p., expressive of loneliness or solitude: since c. 1930, or
more prob. since c. 1910. (Baker, Australia Speaks, 1953; Wilkes, 1978.) Dunny shortens dunnaken, lit, ‘shithouse’; the word
came to England with the Gypsies and was at first an underworld, and at best a low, term.
all ashore as is (or that’s) going ashore! ‘Used, outside of the original context, by e.g., the driver of a car hastening his
passengers—or rather the passengers’ friends—taking over long to say good-bye’ (J.W.C., 1968). Although Prof. Clark is
reporting a US usage, this was most prob. orig. Brit., and perhaps esp. Cockney, dating back to the days of scheduled
all behind in Melbourne, confined to Western Aus., is applied to persons very broad-beamed; it prob. dates from the late
1940s. (Jim Ramsay, Cop It Sweet, 1977.) Clearly it was prompted by the next group, than which it is far less well known.
all behind, like a (or the) cow’s tail, or like a fat woman, or like Barney’s bull. All are phrases applied to one who is
extremely late, or much delayed, in arriving or in getting something finished (‘Here I am again, all behind like…’). The first
is clearly of rural orig., is prob. the prototype, and may go back to, at a guess, c. 1870, and perhaps much earlier, as B.G.T.,
Northants, suggests. This form, with var. a donkey’s tail, is recorded as an American usage also, prob. approx.
contemporaneous with the Brit. (Berrey, 1942). The fat woman version is often used lit., in Aus., ‘having a very large bottom’,
and may then be shortened to all behind; cf all bum, and the prec. Apparently commoner in Aus. is the 3rd var., from which
the all behind may be omitted; it too is a Brit, ruralism that has emigrated; but see also like Barney’s bull. Further on the fat
woman var., Mr Maurice Wedgewood of The Northern Echo comments, ‘I would guess, late C19–20; familiar [to me] from my
earliest years, the 1920s, in a working-class family reflecting C19 folk culture.’
Fain, 1977, notes that you’re the cow’s tail is, in US, addressed to one who is late, esp. the latest, in arriving at a party: since the 1930s. all betty! (or it’s all betty!) It’s all up-the ‘caper’ is over, the game lost—we’ve completely failed: an underworld c.p. of c. 1870–1920; the opposite of it’s all bob or Bob’s your uncle, this sort of pun (Bob—Betty) being not rare in cant; but also deriving from all my eye and Betty Martin. (Recorded by B & L.) all bitter and twisted.
See: crazy mixed-up… all bum! was, c. 1860–1900, a street—esp. a London street— cry directed at a woman wearing a bustle; therefore cf all behind, like a fat woman. For all bum and bustle, see all tits and teeth. all chiefs and no Indians. Since c. 1950, at latest, has been applied in UK to any concern or establishment that seems to be ‘all bosses and no workers’, ‘all presidents (or chairmen) and no, or too few, minor executives’, and similar nuances; cf. John Braine’s var. in The Pious Agent, 1975. ‘“Well, we’re a merchant bank, after all. More officers than privates, so to speak.”’ It most prob. orig. in US, where, as R.C. remarks, ‘it has certainly been current for many years’; in US it has the occ. var. too many chiefs and not enough Indians, as A.B., 1978, notes. An Aus. elab. arising early in WW2 was…like the University Regiment, but this did not long survive the peace. The phrase is unrecorded by Berrey and D. Am., and so, at least for US usage, I would hazard the guess for date: throughout C20. all clever stuff.
See: it’s all clever stuff. all come out in the wash.
See: it’ll all come out… all contributions gratefully received, with however small orig. and still often added. Used lit. it does not, of course, qualify; used allusively or in very different circumstances, it has, since c. 1925, been a c.p., as in ‘“Dying for a smoke! Anyone give me a cigarette?” A long silence. Then “All I have left is half a cigarette—the one behind my ear. Welcome to that, if you want it.” No silence. “All contributions gratefully received. Ta.”’ (From a novel published in 1969, Catherine Aird’s The Complete Steel.) See also small contributions… all coppers are is a ‘truncated version of the c.p. “All coppers are bastards”, current since, at latest, 1945. This itself is only the last line of the chanted jingle, “I’ll sing you a song, it’s not very long: all coppers…etc.” Obviously one would choose one’s company with care before letting this dangerously abusive statement loose, even in jest’ (P.B., 1974). I heard it first in the late 1920s, and I suspect that it has existed throughout C20 and, among professional criminals and crooks, for at least a generation
longer. It is a slanderous misstatement at the expense of an, in the majority, fine body of men, grossly underpaid ever since it
was founded. Cf, semantically, ‘once a policeman, always a policeman’, which is not a c.p., for it follows the pattern of ‘once
a schoolteacher, always a schoolteacher’, a much-exaggerated piece of dogma. Every profession, trade, occupation, has its
black sheep. See also A.C.A.B.
all day! is a children’s and young people’s rejoinder to the query ‘What’s the date-is it the Xth?’ If the question is simply
‘What’s the date?’ the answer is ‘The Xth—all day.’ Arising c. 1890—if not a decade or two earlier—it was, by 1960, very
slightly ob., yet it doesn’t, even now, look at all moribund.
all done by kindness! This ironic late C19–20 phrase occurs in that unjustly forgotten novel, W.L.George’s The Making of an
Englishman, 1914. It is often used in joc. explanatory response to, e.g., ‘How on earth did you manage to do that?’; also as in
‘Not at all! All done by kindness, I assure you’—‘a nonchalant c.p. of dismissal of thanks for an action that is done to
someone else’s advantage’ (Granville, letter, 1969). It seems, as Prof. T.B.W.Reid has (1974) reminded me, to have orig. with
performing animals and the assurances of their trainers. Cf and contrast all done with mirrors.
all done up like a dog’s dinner.
See: all dressed up…
all done with (occ. by) mirrors (—it’s). A phrase uttered when something very clever or extremely ingenious has been done.
Wedgewood, 1977, tells me: ‘Late C19–20, from widening popular knowledge-a “knowing” awareness-of stage conjuring-
devices formerly accepted with awe. C19 illusion-ists used mirrors in celebrated acts such as Pepper’s Ghost.’ In Noël
Coward’s Private Lives, performed and pub’d in 1933, occurs (Act II) this illuminating example:
AMANDA [wistfully clutching his hand]: That’s serious enough, isn’t it?
ELYOT: No, no, it isn’t. Death’s very laughable, such a cunning little mystery. All done with mirrors.
The occ. var. all done with pieces of string is prob. a derivative influenced by the splendid contraptions designed by W.Heath
Robinson. A US var. is all done with a simple twist of the wrist: ‘also probably referring to a conjuror’s explanation of his
legerdemain’ (R.C., 1977). A.B., 1978, has usefully added that the mirrors, the predominant version, is sometimes prec. by it
must be or it must have been.
all dressed up and no place (US) (or nowhere) to go orig. c. 1915, in a ‘song by Raymond Hitchcock, an American
comedian’ (Collinson): by 1937 it was ob.—as it still is, yet, like all day! above, very far from †.
all dressed up for a poppy show. An occ. var., Brit, rural, of the following collection:
all dressed up like a Christmas-tree or in Christmas-tree order ;…like a dog’s dinner;…like a ham bone;…like a pox-doctor’s clerk; and the US like Mrs Astor’s horse; all occ. omitted in all of them. All done up…or all got up…are fairly
frequent variants, and, in later C20, all tarted up…would be understood as synon.
The like a Christmas-tree version, late C19–20 but almost † by 1970, may be the earliest of the group; it had the WW1 British soldiers’ offshoot all dressed up in Christmas-tree order, which, however, meant specifically in full service marching order.
…like a dog’s dinner is the best known: dating since c. 1925 in the Services, esp. the Army, it attained considerable popularity there during WW2 and, c. 1955, spread rapidly among civilians. In Can. it has, since c. 1910, had a var., all dolled up like a barber’s cat, defined by Leechman as ‘resplendently dressed’. (The former: PGR, 1948; the latter: DSUE.) P.B.: influences on these phrases may have been dog-robbers, a C20, orig. RN, officers’ term for a tweed civilian suit; and like the barber’s cat: all wind and piss!
…like a ham bone, dating since c. 1850 but ob. by 1970, is a very English, esp. a Midlands, c.p. of the domestic kind. B.G.T., 1978, glosses it thus: ‘It referred probably to the paper frill round the joint when it was brought to table.’
…like a pox-doctor’s clerk, i.e. flashily: current since, very approx., c. 1870, was in fairly gen. use until the 1960s. I heard it first in the 1920s, but not since WW2. [P.B.: it continued in widespread services’ use at least until the mid—1970s.] Wilkes, 1978, defines it as ‘dressed nattily, but in bad taste’, claims it as Aus., implies that, as such, it is extant; but I’m reasonably sure that it went to Australia from England. But a pox-doctor’s clerk, and its var. a horse-doctor’s clerk (without like) had, in UK, a different usage: ‘These were, in my younger days [1920s—40s] a way of explaining one’s occupation if some impertinent person asked what you did for a living’ (Anon., letter, 1978). See also the quot’n at if you can’t fight…
…like Mrs Astor’s horse, the horse often qualified as pet (Ashley) or plush (R.C.): Claiborne adds ‘The Mrs Astor in question was the doyenne of New York society c. 1890; hence presumably dating from that era’; he cites Stanley Walker, Mrs Astor’s Horse, c. 1935, and implies that the phrase was ob. by c. 1940. Ashley writes, 1979, ‘I think the Mrs Astor is one of the two wives (Ava Lowe Willing or Madeleine Talmadge Force) of the US industrialist who died in 1912.’ all duck or no dinner. ‘The final fling which may lead to either triumph or disaster’ (Skehan, 1984): Anglo-Irish: C20. Cf. synon. shit or bust and Sydney or the bush. all fine ladies are witches: C18. In S, Dialogue II, we find:
LADY SM.: You have hit it; I believe you are a Witch.
MISS: O, Madam, the Gentlemen say. all fine Ladies are Witches; but I pretend to no such Thing.
An allusion to women’s intuition? all gas and gaiters is the shortened—the c.p.—form of ‘All is gas and gaiters’ in Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, 1838–9. In civilian life, the c.p. is often applied to bishops and archbishops: a ref. to the gaiters they wear and to the facile eloquence beloved by so many of them: indeed gas and gaiters has come to mean ‘mere verbiage’. But the c.p. was not much used after
c. 1950, until it was notably revived in, and by, the television-to-radio transfer programme ‘All Gas and Gaiters’ (or, as Noble has described it, ‘fun with the clergy’), which started on 30 Jan. 1967 and ended on 17 June 1971, as Barry Took, author of the delightful Laughter in the Air, 1976, has informed me. See also attitude is the art of gunnery… all good clean fun.
See: it’s all good… all hands and the cook, lit. ‘a phrase used in an emergency when every hand is called to guard the herd, when the cattle are unusually restless or there is imminent danger of a stampede’ (Ramon F.Adams, Western Words, 2nd ed., 1968), it spread, in the American West, far beyond the cowboys as a general alert—and was occ. used facetiously. Recorded also by Berrey, 1942. all hands on deck!
See: man the pumps! all honey or all turd with them (—it’s). They are either close friends or bitter enemies—they fly from one extreme to the other. The phrase occurs in Pepys, Diary, 13 Dec. 1663 (R.S.), and is recorded in Grose, 3rd ed., 1796; it may have lasted until the end of C19, among the less mealy-mouthed, for it seems to have prompted a military var.: B.G.T., 1978, reports an ex-soldier as saying, ‘Oh, them, they’re either all shit or all shine.’ all human life is there (occ. here)! The ‘there’ version is orig. ‘A News of the World advertising slogan which took on a certain life of its own in the rest of the world’ (VIBS). all I know is what I read in the papers, which we owe to Will Rogers, the so-called ‘cowboy philosopher’, is the c.p. form of the words beginning his ‘letter’ of 21 May 1926: ‘Dear Mr Coolidge: Well all I know is just what I read in the papers’ (Will Rogers, The Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat to His President, 1927): by which he meant that all he knew of events in the US was what he could glean from the English newspapers. A particular and topical ref. became, as is the way in the genesis of c.pp., gen. and enduring: and this one has ‘worn very well’, esp. in US, where, very properly, it has always been far more popular than in UK, not that it’s in the least rare even in Britain. W.J.B. has, 1975, told me that, in the US, it continues to be very widely used.
The interpretation made above is very British, however natural it may sound. An old friend, Dr Joseph T.Shipley, wrote thus to me, 1974:
I showed [your ‘item’]…a publisher. He said: ‘This misses the point. Wherever Will Rogers was, the expression means: “I’m just an ordinary citizen. I don’t read the highbrow journals, the magazines that tell you the news isn’t so; I’m not a professor: I don’t go to listen to men that call themselves experts: all I know is what I read in the papers—and that makes me as good a citizen as the next man.”
‘The sentence also implies: “I don’t trust them pernicke-ty persuaders always telling you they know what isn’t so. I get my facts from the papers, and that’s good enough for me.”’
Then, on his own account, Dr Shipley adds:
(Note the naïve implication: ‘All I know…’ If it’s in the papers, it’s true. A man may try to lie to me; print doesn’t lie!) The catch phrase ‘All I know is what I read in the papers’ is an implied assertion that all you (i.e., anyone) can know is what you read in the papers; and my opinion is therefore as good as the next man’s, and that’s the way it is and should be in this democracy. That’s what Will Rogers felt, and that’s the spirit underlying his humor and a main source of his popularity.
A long discussion for a short sentence! But it does mean more than it says. And I think the final implication above (that the simple man is as qualified a citizen as the self-styled expert) deserves mention.
Sanders, 1978, makes the point, reinforcing the Brit, interpretation: ‘Also “it must be true, I read it in the papers”—a c.p. used with particular point when talking to journalists and meaning that they’d written more nonsense than usual. Probably later than 1945.’
By W.J.B. I have been able to conclude the matter of the phrase’s origin: he writes, 1979, ‘Almost every expert attributes this saying to comedian Will Rogers. I am at present reading a current biography of Herbert Bayard Swope by Alfred Aldan Lewis entitled Man of the World, 1978.
‘On p. 108…is the following: “Will Rogers once asked Swope how he had acquired his prodigious store of information, and he modestly replied ‘I only know what I read in the newspapers’. The remark so impressed Rogers that he used it as part of his monologue in several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies.”
‘I believe this to be a true account. Rogers was a frequent visitor at Swope’s summer home at Sands Point, Long Island, N.Y., and it is agreed that Swope was one of the best conversationalists in America. An executive editor of the old New York World, he made it a practice to read daily every newspaper of importance published in the U.S., and [of] the English-speaking world, for that matter. That is where he got most of his information, and his remark to Rogers was an honest one, a natural one.’
That, I’d say, settles the origin. all I want is the facts, ma’am.
See: all we want all in my eye.
See: all my eye… all in the mind.
See: it’s all in the mind… all in the seven; all in the twelve.
See: it’s all in the seven, and …twelve. all is bob.
See: and Bob’s your uncle. all is forgiven.
See: come back…, and come home… all is rug.
See: all’s rug. all jam and Jerusalem is a slightly derogatory c.p. directed at Women’s Institutes since c. 1925. Whereas jam arises from the jam-making contests, Jerusalem refers to Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ being sung at every meeting—less in piety than as a signature. A very English phrase concerning a very English institution.
Wedgewood agrees, 1977, that it may be ‘slightly derogatory’, but adds that it is ‘interesting to note that the Women’s Institutes have used it (or approved its use) as the title of a 1977 history of the movement, Jam and Jerusalem, by Simon Goodenough…: a bold humour that is to the credit of the W.I.’s.’ all join hands and panic! Joc. var. of when in danger…; see also if in danger… all Lombard Street to a Brummagem sixpence is a c.p., a joc. var. of all Lombard Street to a China orange. Meaning ‘heavy odds’, the original and originating… China orange (a piece of chinaware) has the further variants…to ninepence and …to an egg-shell; all three variants arose in C19, and all, as c. pp., are †. The ref. is to the wealth of this famous London street. The idea has a US equivalent, (it is or I’ll lay) dollars to doughnuts, recorded by D.Am. for 1904 in the form it is…, but ob. by c. 1970, as R.C. tells me, 1977. Note, however, that ODEP treats all Lombard Street to a china orange as a proverbial saying, which, therefore, it prob. was, at least in origin, and records it for 1832; ODEP also records an apparently short-lived I’ll lay all Lombard Street to an egg-shell, with date 1752. P.B.: was this last a pun, perhaps? all mouth and trousers. ‘Noisy and worthless stuff: “He’s all mouth and trousers”’ (David Powis, Signs of Crime, 1977): the underworld and its fringes: since (?) mid—C20. Cf all wind and piss. (P.B.) L.A., 1964, had noted the phrase’s use on radio and TV, and E.P. that it is a euph. for all prick and breeches, addressed, as you’re all…, or applied, he’s all…, to a loud-mouthed, blustering fellow: since c. 1920. all my eye (and Betty Martin), often prec. by it’s or that’s. ‘That is utter nonsense.’ The shorter form seems to have been the earlier, Goldsmith using it in 1768; yet Francis Grose, in his dictionary, shows the var. that’s my eye, Betty Martin to have been already familiar in 1785. Grose’s form became † before 1900, as did such variants as all my eye, Betty (Thomas Moore, 1819) and all my eye and Tommy (John Poole’s Hamlet Travestied, 1811), this mysterious Tommy recurring, as Ernest Weekley long ago pointed out, in the phrases like Hell and Tommy and the earlier play Hell and Tommy. The predominant short form is (tha’Zs) all my eye, which recurs in, e.g., R.S.Surtees, Hillingdon Hall; or, The Cockney Squire, 1845; there, in chapter XVI, we read, ‘“The land’s worked out!” says another, slopin’ off in the night without payin’ his rent. “That’s all my eye!” exclaimed Mr Jorrocks.’ Surtees uses it again in Hawbuck Grange, 1847.
I think that the orig. form was all my eye!, which later acquired the var. my eye!: perhaps cf. the slangy and synon. Fr. mon oeil! which could, indeed, have generated all my eye, if, in fact, the Fr. phrase preceded the English, although prob. each arose independently of the other and was created by that ‘spontaneous combustion’ which would account for so much that is otherwise unaccountable in English. The full all my eye and Betty Martin is less used in the 1970s than it was in the 1870s, but ‘there’s life in the old girl yet’.
Inevitably the and Betty Martin part of the complete phrase has caused much trouble and even more hot air: who was she? I suspect that she was a ‘character’ of the lusty London of the 1770s and that no record of her exists other than in this c.p. In The Disagreeable Surprise: A Musical Farce,? 1828, George Daniel makes Billy Bombast say, ‘My first literary attempt was a flaming advertisement… My next was a Satirical Poem… I then composed the whole art and mystery of Blacking or Every Man his own Polisher; which turned out all Betty Martin…’ and thus offers us yet another var.; and in the Earl of Glengall’s The Irish Tutor; or, New Lights: A Comic Piece, performed in 1823 and pub’d c. 1830, the spurious Dr O’Toole says to his tutor, ‘Hark ye, sirrah, hem—[Aside to him] It’s all Betty Martin. I have demaned myself by brushing your coat, to tache you modesty.’ ‘Jon Bee’ in his dictionary, 1823, propounded a theory silently adopted a generation later by William Camden Hotten, that Betty Martin derives from, and corrupts, the L. o(h), mihi, beate Martine (St Martin of Tours), which, they said, occurs in a prayer that apparently doesn’t exist. Slightly more probable is the theory advanced by Dr L.A.Waddell in his highly speculative book, The Phoenician Origin of Britons, Scots, and Anglo-Saxons, 1914; to the effect that all my eye and Betty Martin derives, entire, from L. O mihi, Britomartis, ‘Oh, (bring help) to me, Britomartis’, who, we are told, was the tutelary goddess of Crete and whose cult was either identical or, at the least, associated with the sun-cult of the Phoenicians— who traded with Britons for Cornish tin. Such etymologies lose sight of a basic problem: how did—how could—the Cockneys, among whom the phrase originated, ever come to even encounter either of these two religious and erudite L. phrases? The relationship appears wildly improbable.
Such energetic ingenuity is supererogatory, these erudite imaginings being inherently much less convincing than the theory of simple English origin. To me, anyway, all my eye and Betty Martin! no more than elaborates all my eye!; and as for Betty Martin, well! the English language, in its less formal aspects, affords many examples of mysterious characters appearing in a phrase and recorded nowhere else. In this instance, however, there was, in the (?) latter part of C18, ‘an abandoned woman’ named Grace, an actress, who induced a Mr Martin to marry her. She became notorious as Betty Martin: and favourite expressions of hers were my eye! and all my eye, as Charles Lee Lewis tells us in his Memoirs, 1805. Even that immensely erudite poet, Sou they, remarked, in The Doctor, 1834–7, that he was ‘puzzled by this expression’. (And Mr Ronald Pearsall, of Landscove, Devon, imparts his erudition to me, 1975.)
In South Africa, Betsy. (Prof. A.C.Partridge.)
E.P. later noted that in Blackwood’s Magazine, Mar. 1824 (No. 86, p. 307) ‘Bill Truck’, in his entertaining naval lowerdeck serial The Man-o’-War’s Man, has a senior petty officer shout at the seamen attending church parade, ‘Can’t you recollect… that you are going to prayers?—Come, heave ahead, forward there,—D—n the fellows, they ought to walk one after another as mim and as sulky as old Betty Martin at a funeral.’ Here, mim is a widely spread dial, term for ‘primly silent, demure’, while sulky bears the archaic sense, ‘solemn’. There’s a poss. semantic equation with (as) demure as a whore at a christening. (This I owe to Col. Moe.) P.B.: it may be of interest that in the collected ed. of the serial, pub’d 1843 by Blackwoods, the phrase has been altered to ‘as mim and orderly as old Betty Martin…’ ‘Bill Truck’ (pseud., i.e. David Stewart, d. 1850) makes considerable use of the phrases all in my eye; all in my eye and Betty; and all in my eye and Betty Martin. The story, to which the 1843 ed. carries a foreword dated Oct. 1821, concerns lowerdeck life from the naval mutiny of 1797 to the Anglo-US War of 1812, and appears to be an authentic, thinly-fictionalised, eye-witness account. Cf the next two entries. all my eye and my elbow! and all my eye and my grandmother! are London variants of all my eye and Betty Martin: strictly, the grandmother version stems from the elbow version. The latter is recorded by Ware for 1882, and seems to have fallen into disuse by 1920; the former is recorded in Baumann, 1887, and was ob. by 1937, † by 1970. Note also so’s your grandfather!, which, expressing incredulity, has been current since late C19, is still very much alive, although, by 1970, mildly ob., and has been gen. throughout England. all my eye and Peggy Martin (—that’s). A C20 (and earlier?) North Country var. of all my eye and Betty Martin. Noble, 1974, glosses it: ‘Romantic nonsense, not to be believed. Long common in the north of England. There probably was a romancer named Peggy Martin.’ all my (or me) own work is a c.p. only when used figuratively— chiefly when the tone is either joc. or ironic, esp. if ironically self-deprecatory. Dating from c. 1920, it orig., I believe, in the drawings and paintings displayed by pavement artists. Cf alone I did it, which is not, of course, synon. all night in, with the inside out is a ruefully ironic, yet humorous, Trinity House Lighthouse c.p., applied to the four-hour watch beginning at midnight. Peppitt cites J.M. Lewis, Ceaseless Vigil, 1970. all on top. That’s untrue!: a.c.p. of the Brit, underworld; dating from c. 1920. The evidence is all—but only—on top; in short, superficial. all over bar (occ. but) the shouting (—it’s). Orig.—the earliest record apparently occurs in C.J.Apperley’s The Life of a Sportsman, 1842—both the Brit, and the US form was (it’s) all over but the shouting, but in late C19–20 it has predominantly been…bar the shouting. As c.pp. they developed, late in C19, from the proverbial or semi-proverbial all is over but shouting (Apperley’s version); the bar form occurs in Adam Lindsay Gordon’s poem, How We Beat the Favourite, 1869, as ‘The race is all over, bar shouting’. In Henry Arthur Jones, The Manoeuvres of Jane, 1898, near end of Act IV, there is a rare var.:
STEPHEN: Well, George, how goes it?
SIR G: All over, I think, except the shouting.
This is a particularly interesting example, for it is sometimes a genuine proverbial saying and sometimes a genuine c.p.; in
C20, almost entirely a c.p.
The US form, I’ve been very firmly told, has always been all over but the shouting. Yet A.B., 1978, modifies this by stating that Americans occ. use except. all over the place like a mad woman’s shit. Used in Aus. to describe a state of complete untidiness or confusion. (C. Raab.) P.B.: knitting is sometimes politely substituted for shit, and I have also heard the var. custard: all, later C20. all part of life’s rich pattern! (—it’s or, less often, heigh ho!). This is an ironically resigned, yet far from submissive, reflection upon the vicissitudes of life. ‘I’ve heard this from more and more unlikely people over the past, say, five years’ (P.B.).
Also as ‘tapestry’, and—perhaps the orig. quoted by Nigel Rees in BBC Radio 4 ‘Quote, Unquote’, 18 July 1983, Arthur Marshall in his persona as games mistress, in 1930s— …part of life’s rich pageant. Given later impetus by Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, in a film c. 1960. all part of the service—it’s.
See: just part of…. all parts bearing an equal strain. All is well—‘no complaints’: RN: since c. 1930. Derivatively, since c. 1945, it is also applied to oneself, or to another, lying down comfortably. all piss and wind, with no ref. to the cat, is the Aus. version of all wind and piss like a barber’s cat, q.v. (Neil Lovett, 1978.) all pissed-up and nothing to show (sc. for it) is a working-class phrase addressed—or used in ref. to one who has spent all his wages or all his winnings on drink: since c. 1920. On the analogy-indeed, moulded to the shape-of all dressed up and nowhere to go. all present and correct! All correct; all in order, as in Ronald Knox, Still Dead, 1934, ‘“Is that all present and correct?” “Couldn’t be better.”’ It comes from the sergeant-major’s phrase, used in reporting on a parade to the officer in charge. all profit! is a C20 barbers’ c.p., spoken usu, to the customer himself, when no ‘dressing’ is required on the hair. all promise and no performance ‘is applied to female flirts’ (Petch, 1969): since c. 1920; by the late 1970s, ob. Cf all show… all quiet on the Potomac; all quiet in the Shipka Pass and all quiet on the Western Front. The first is the earliest, although decidedly not the model for the other two. It is, obviously, US: and it naturally arose during the Civil War (1861–5) from its frequent application—either by Secretary of War Cameron or by General McClellan or, as is probable, by both—to a comparatively quiet period in 1861–2 on that sector. It enraged a public that wanted action and soon caught on, esp. in joc. and often somewhat derisive irony; it remained a very gen. c.p. for the whole of a generation and even for some forty years; Berrey adjudges it to have become † by 1910. (For fuller information, see notably D. Am.)
In the US, all’s quiet—but usu. all quiet—on the Western Front derives ‘from the standard official phrase as issued daily by the War Department during relatively calm …periods during…WW1’ (Berrey), but as a c.p. it was, of course, applied to periods or situations devoid of fighting or quarrelling or mere bickering, precisely as in Britain ‘at home and abroad’; indeed, the US official phrase was adopted from the War Office’s communiqués, which, even during the latter half of that war, roused the derision and ribaldry of the men fighting it instead of writing about it—it was they who originated the c.p., which persisted right up to WW2 and is still used. Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen Nichts Neues (Berlin. 1929), admirably translated by A.H. Wheen as All Quiet on the Western Front and pub’d by Putnam in 1929, reinforced the popularity and still further widened the use of the phrase. In 1969, J.W.C. wrote to tell me that it was ‘a real c.p., at least in this country [US], in that it is indiscriminately used, without ref. to WW1’. W.J.B. has rightly suggested, 1978, that I add a ref. to the song All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight, pub’d 1864, with words by Lamar Fontaine and music by John Hill Hewett. (Source: Edward B.Marks, They All Had Glamour.) [P.B.: this song, made known to hearers in UK by the records, mid-C20, of the US folk-singer Burl Ives, brings out the irony of the ‘all quiet’: all may indeed be ‘quiet’ on the frontline as a whole, but still individual men are being killed by snipers or by desultory shelling.]
The c.p. all quiet on the Western Front owes nothing to the US all quiet on the Potomac: it was suggested by all quiet in the Shipka Pass, which, current in 1915–16, refers to-or, rather, was prompted by—Vasily Vereshchagin’s bitter cartoons of a Russian soldier being gradually, ineluctably, buried in falling snow during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–8; this is a pass through the Balkan Mountains and was the scene of exceptionally bloody fighting; and Vereshchagin’s paintings acquired a just fame far beyond Russia. That fame led to a revival of interest in Vereshchagin’s war paintings and cartoons, an interest culminating in the journalistic, hence also a brief military, c.p., all quiet in the Shipka Pass. (I myself never heard it during WW1, either on Gallipoli or in Egypt or on the Western Front.) all right.
See: fuck you, Jack; sex is; she’s all; this is a bit; this is all; what’s the matter with father; and: all right, already! ‘Enough!, shut up!, stop!: Jewish’ (Ashley): US; and Brit., where often used joc. by non-Jews, with a mock-Jewish accent: later C20. all right, all right, as in Dorothy L.Sayers, Murder Must Advertise, 1933, ‘“She’s a smart jane, all right, all right”’, is an intensive tag that may have come to UK from Can., for it appears in John Sandilands, Western Canadian Dictionary and Phrase-Book, 2nd ed., 1913, as in, e.g., ‘I think I can hold down this job all right, all right.’ How long it had existed in Can. (not only in the West, I surmise), I don’t profess to know; perhaps as early as c. 1880. all right! Don’t pipe it! ‘Addressed to a man who speaks too loud, in the manner of a Tannoy [public-address system], for all to hear when not all should hear’ (Granville, 1970): RN lowerdeck: since c. 1930. all right for some! (—it’s). ‘Some people have all the luck. A c.p. of disgruntlement by one of the luckless’ (Granville, 1969): C20, P.B.: but the disgruntlement thus expressed is quite often joc. Cf: all right for you is ironically addressed to those who are worse off than oneself: the fighting Services’: since c. 1940. J.W.C., 1977, adds this modification: ‘In US, used only—and paradoxically—as an expression of resentment of a slight or refused favor or an unfair advantage taken; it often carries the subaudition of “We aren’t friends any more” or “I’ll get even with you”; mainly children’s; older than my memory [say, 1908], and still current (among children seriously, among adults humorously).’ This interpretation is confirmed by R.C. P.B.: in Brit, usage it may be simply a more personalised version of the prec., as in ‘It’s all right for you [sc. to laugh, etc.]’ all right, it’s all wrong. ‘Heard on and off (Petch, 1969): Brit.: since c. 1955. But the US form has but all right! added: and it is glossed thus by A.B., 1978: ‘It indicates frustration …when one has to accept something he doesn’t altogether like, but which he sees as acceptable in a practical, or a political way to carry out some plan or project. Hughes Rudd, CBS Morning News Show, often used it’—WW2 onwards-and he has had a very distinguished career as a newsman. all right on the night (that is, on the first night-the opening night), an actors’ c.p., applied to a bad—esp. a very bad—dress rehearsal, dates from c. 1870, as its occurrence in Kipling’s Stalky & Co., pub’d 1899 but referring to his own schooldays, virtually proves (R.C.; R.S.; Granville). It has, since c. 1920, gained a wider acceptance—an application, in the larger world, to small things going wrong, but optimistically hoped to go right-to judge by its extension and allusiveness in Nichol Fleming’s Hush, 1971, ‘I’ve always found the soft sell almost irresistible…. “It’ll be all right on the night,” I said.’ This, perhaps the most famous of all theatrical c.pp., shortens it will all come right on the night, which has a var. it will be all right on the night. all right up to now. All is well—so far: 1878—c. 1915: orig., and always, mostly feminine. ‘Used by Herbert Campbell…in Covent Garden Theatre Pantomime, 1878’, as Ware, himself a writer of light comedies, tells us; he adds that it derives from ‘enceinte women making this remark as to their condition’; the phrase became used also in other circumstances. all right-you did hear a seal bark indicates a resigned, long-suffering, vocal agreement (and mental disagreement) with someone who insists that something odd is indeed happening: US: since c. 1950. It was occasioned by James Thurber’s famous caption and sketch (of a seal leaning over the headboard of a bed and barking as it looks down at a married couple, the woman insistent and the man sceptical), appearing orig. in the New Yorker and reprinted in one of his inimitable collections of sketches. R.C. comments, 1977, ‘Never common, I think, and now dead.’ P.B.: the collection was titled The Seal in the Bedroom, and the caption in full ran ‘All Right, Have It Your Way—You Heard a Seal Bark’. I’m pretty sure that this was always used as a quot’n from a recognised source, rather than qualifying as a c.p. all round my hat! was a derisive, orig. and always predominantly Cockney, retort, connoting ‘What nonsense you’re talking’: approx. c. 1834–90. Perhaps from the broadside ballad, ‘All Round my Hat I Wears a Green Willow’. A derivative sense appears in spicy as all round my hat, a slangy expression meaning ‘sensational’ and occurring in Punch, 1882.
That comic song, written by John Hansett, with music by John Valentine, was—according to the British Museum Library’s Modern Music Catalogue—first sung in 1834; it was included in The Franklin Square Song Collection, 8 parts, 1881–91, pub’d in New York.
Mackay noted the c.p. in his long essay. The phrase and the song became so popular that George Dibdin Pitt’s ‘domestic drama’, Susan Hopley; or, The Vicissitudes of a Servant Girl, 1841, III, ii, ends with the stage directions: ‘Music…Dicky sings “All Round My Hat” and leads the Donkey off.’ And in R.S.Surtees, Handley Cross, 1854, vol. II, the chapter titled ‘The Stud Sale’, we find:
‘Well done!’ exclaimed Mr Jorrocks, patting the orator’s back.
‘Keep the tambourine a rowlin’!’ growled Pigg, turning his quid, and patting the horse’s head.
‘All round my ’at!’ squeaked Benjamin in the crowd.
Cf. queer as Dick’s hatband, q.v.
all round St Paul’s, not forgetting the trunkmaker’s daughter was a book-world c.p. used in late C18—early 19 and
applied to unsaleable books. The OED quoted The Globe of 1 July 1890: ‘By the trunkmaker was understood…the depository
for unsalable books.’ At that period-and, indeed, until ‘the London blitz’ of 1940–1—the district around St Paul’s was famous
for its bookshops and its book-publishers.
all serene!, short for it’s all serene (quiet, safe, favourable), is enshrined in Dickens’s comment, 1853: ‘An audience will sit
in a theatre and listen to a string of brilliant witticisms, with perfect immobility; but let some fellow…roar out “It’s all
serene”, or “Catch ’em alive, oh!” (this last is sure to take), pit, boxes, and gallery roar with laughter. ’M. has the entry :
‘Serene (Eng.). “all serene”, all right; a phrase taken from a comic song and used, when first introduced, on all occasions.
Now it is seldom heard.’ That sharp observer of current speech, R.S. Surtees, in Plain or Ringlets, 1860, chapter LV, writes,
‘On this auspicious day, however, it was “all serene” as old Saddlebags said.’ It was, in England, still being used right up to
all shit and biscuits, like the bottom of a baby’s pram. Very messy and untidy: domestic. (Edwin Haines to P.B., 1962,
with var. like a crow’s nest, all shit and twigs.) Ct all crumbs at all wind…
all shit or all shine with them.
See: all honey…
all show and no go (—he’s or she’s). This C20 US c.p. is ‘said of someone who puts on airs with promise of “great
expectations” but who fails entirely or falls woefully short of the goal. [It is] usually a sexual reference to one who teases but
not pleases, or to a racehorse that looks good but performs badly’ (A.B., 1978). Cf all promise…
all singing, all dancing has, since c. 1970, been ‘applied to machines, systems, etc., meaning that they have every possible elaboration attached. Common in computer circles’. Complementary is bells and whistles, those elaborations, additions, modifications, which make the systems and machines, e.g. computers, go all singing and dancing. (Playfair, 1977.) P.B.: Listener, 22 Feb. 1979, applied the term to a new battle tank. [all Sir Garnet! and all Sirgarneo! All right! Everything is correct and in good order: since c. 1885, the former; since c. 1895, the latter, on the analogy of such locutions as all aliveo; both slightly ob. by 1915, very much so by 1935, and † by 1940. From c. 1890 there existed the Cockney var. all Sir Garny, as in Edwin Pugh, Harry the Cockney, 1912. From the military fame of Sir Garnet (later Viscount) Wolseley (1833–1923)—almost as famous in his day as Lord Roberts (‘Bobs’) was in his—who served both actively and brilliantly from 1852–85. He did much to improve the lot of the Other Ranks, who often debased Sir Garnet to Sirgarneo, whence Sigarneo, whence Sigarno. In the debased forms it was quite common among Commonwealth troops. (B & P). But I’d say that none of them is a true c.p.] all smoke, gammon and spinach (occ. pickles). All nonsense: c. 1870–1900. An elab. of the slangy gammon and spinach (used by, e.g., Dickens in 1849), nonsense, humbug, itself an elab. of gammon, nonsense. all systems go, ‘literally the statement of readiness for launching manned and unmanned rocket systems for space exploration from Cape Canaveral, esp. for the moon landings in the late 1960s and early 1970s was popularized through worldwide television coverage. The words were taken up in Britain [c. 1970] and America [c. 1969] as a c.p. for preparedness for any endeavour, often used humorously’ (Noble, 1974). DCCU, independently in 1971 after appearing, 1970, in some editions of Webster, with this example, ‘It’s all systems go here, so let’s take off’. [all talk and no cider. That’s a great deal of talk and no results’ (Berrey, 1942): US: C20; by 1970, ob., and by 1975 †, as Col. Moe tells me, 1975. Later, however, he adds that the phrase is ‘of long standing, but still heard occasionally’, and quotes from Salmagundi. I, 7 (4 April 1807)—where Washington Irving, in ‘Letter from Mustapha Rub-a-dub Keli Khan’, has this passage:
Now after all it is an even chance that the subject of this prodigious arguing, quarrelling and talking is an affair of no importance and ends entirely in smoke. May it not then be said, the whole nation have been talking to no purpose? The people, in fact, seem to be somewhat conscious of this propensity to talk, by which they are characterized, and have a favourite proverb on the subject, viz. ‘all talk and no cider’.
In short, all talk and no cider should perhaps be classified, not as c.p. but as a proverbial saying, apparently from late, maybe mid, C18. To me it sounds like a mislaid aphorism coined by that master of aphorism, Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)—as in his Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1732–57. Clearly reminiscent is Artemus Ward’s ‘What we want is more cider and less talk’. Nevertheless, I have included the phrase in deference to several US friends whose opinion is never to be ignored.] [all talk and no pussy makes Jack a dull boy puns on the old Brit, and US proverb all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and is a potential c.p. that has not, I think, quite ‘made the grade’. It occurs in John Dos Passos, Chosen Country, 1951. Here pussy is used in the slang sense, the outward appearance, esp. the pubic hair, of the female genitals, hence woman as sex object, hence copulation.] all that meat and no potatoes is a US, derivatively a Can., c.p., certainly current since the 1940s. ‘As a rude teenager, I would have applied this to any flabby, eunuch-like fatty…; since then, I’ve heard it applied to ineffective, overweight politicians, with an intellectual, rather than a sexual, insult intended’ (Hugh Quetton, 1978). It has a ‘meaning far from precise, but approximately “too much of a good thing”—as an all-meat meal would indeed be: US, from? 1920s, fortified by a popular song of the 1940s with that title and refrain. Extinct, I would say, for nigh on 20 years’ (R.C., 1978). ‘I encountered it first many years ago, used by a black jazz musician to express admiration for a rather impressive décolletage. I have not noticed it attaining any wide use in Canada’ (Priestley, 1978). all that the name implies is ‘a c.p., which originated in a chance expression used during the cause célèbre of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher’ (Farmer): US: c. 1875–90. The trial took place in 1875; Beecher died in 1889. all that’s between me and prostitution (occ. the streets, with or without introductory that’s). A ‘rueful cry on [one’s] finding practically nothing in one’s purse or pocket’: later C20. ‘I’ve heard it only from males’ (P.B., 1976); and I’ve heard it only from females. Which, once again, goes to show how careful one should be to eschew dogmatism. Cf that’s all I have… all the better for seeing you! is the cheerfully courteous answer to ‘How are you?’: late C19–20. Contrast none the better… all the jails must be empty tonight or, less often, today. ‘Apropos at seeing a large, rather diversified group of people with whom one is closely or relatively familiar. Rather a club-type expression, I suppose, and usually a friendly one. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it written down. It may have arisen during early Prohibition days, 1919–33, in relation to an exceptionally large gathering at a “speakeasy” [illicit tavern]—or at several “speakeasies” on any given night’ (A.B., 1978): US. all the same in a hundred years.
See: it’ll all be the same… all the traffic will bear (—that’s). Lit., it relates to fares and freights; only fig. is it a c.p., meaning that the situation, whether financial or other, precludes anything more. Orig.— ? c. 1945—US, it was adopted c. 1948 in Can. and c. 1955 in UK. It is, Leechman tells me, said to derive from a US magnate’s cynicism. R.C., 1977, comments that in its lit. meaning, it was not, of course, a c.p.; it seems to have become one in or very soon after 1906, when certain railroad abuses were abolished in USA. all there and a ha’p’orth over was, c. 1870–1914, the superlative of all there used as a term of approval. M. all there but the most of you! was a low, raffish c.p. applied (as if you hadn’t guessed!) to copulation: mid C19–20—but by
c. 1950, †.
all things (occ. everything) to all men, and nothing to one man is aimed at prostitutes or at ‘enthusiastic amateurs’ or at
promiscuous girls or women in general. I first heard it in 1940—and rather think it didn’t much precede that date.
all tits and teeth. (Of a woman) having protrusive breasts and large teeth: a low c.p. of C20. Hence, a still low but
predominantly Cockney c.p., dating from c. 1910 and applied to a woman wearing an insincere smile and exhibiting a notable
skill in displaying the amplitude of her bosom (il y a du monde au balcon). An alert and erudite friend, writing to me in 1967,
recalled that he had sometimes heard this phrase elab. to ‘“…like a third-row chorus girl”, i.e. one who can neither sing nor
dance, and depends upon the display of her exceptional physique to keep her on the stage’. P.B.: cf. all bum and bustle, which
epitomises equally well another type of woman: the middle-aged or elderly bustling and bossy sort.
all together like Brown’s (or Browne’s) cows (—we’re). We’re alone: an Anglo-Irish c.p. of late C19–20. This fellow Brown-
a creature merely of anecdotal tradition, not a character in history-possessed only one cow. Clearly of rural, prob. of rustic,
origin. (Owed to the late Frank Shaw, the authority on Scouse.)
all together: one at a time! A RN Petty Officers’ ‘exasperated exhortation to a puffing boat’s crew unable to keep stroke’
(Peppitt, 1977): from 1920 at latest, and prob. since late C19.
all up. A US railroadmen’s c.p. of C20; used by ‘a train crew that has completed its work before quitting time’ (Ramon F.
Adams, The Language of the Railroader, 1977, an engaging work pub’d by the University of Oklahoma Press, by whose
generous permission I quote the eight c.pp. I’ve there encountered).
all up in here. Synon. with where it’s at: American Negro: since 1960 at latest. The Third Ear, 1971.
all very large and fine! indicates either ironic approval or incredulity or even derision: 1886, from ‘the refrain of a song sung
by Mr Herbert Campbell’ (Ware) and much in vogue for a couple of years; by 1935, slightly ob., and by 1950 †, its place
having been taken by all very fine and large, usu. prec, by it’s or that’s.
all we want is the facts, ma’am (, just the facts)! ‘Jack Webb as Joe Friday, the fast-talking [monotonous-voiced] cop in the
American TV series Dragnet (1951–8, 1967–9)’ (VIBS). Occ. rendered as just give me the facts, ma’am; all I want is the facts.
all white and spiteful.
See: white and spiteful.
all wind and piss like a barber’s cat is contemptuous of a man given to much talk, esp. to much boasting, and little, if any,
performance: prob. since c. 1800, for it clearly derives from the semi-proverbial C18–19 like the barber’s cat, all wind and
piss. Cf also the C20 slang phrase, pissing like the barber’s cat, applied to prolific output—which I owe (1975) to Mr C. A. Worth.
The phrase has naturally generated a var. or two, and at least one shortening; as in like a barber’s cat, all wind and no water,
current in the C20 MN and cited in Seamen and the Sea, ed. R.Hope, 1965, and as in all wind and no piss, current in both RN
and MN, meaning ‘all talk, no action’— current since the late 1940s, if not earlier (Peppitt, 1977). And then there’s the
domestic all wind and piss like the bottom of a baby’s pram, which itself has the var., all crumbs and piss…, both dating from
early C20 (Eric Townley, 1978). P.B.: but the last is a different sense: it means messily untidy; see also all shit… With all
wind… Cf all mouth…, q.v.; J.B.Smith, Bath, draws attention to the Cumbrian dial. all wind and woo like a burnywind’s
[=smith’s] bellows (EDD, at wind).
all wrapped up and tied with (or in) blue ribbon means that everything has been neatly and cosily settled: US: since c.
1965, or perhaps a decade earlier. In Michael Wolfe’s novel, Man on a String, 1973, thus: ‘Anyway it was his problem. So
there it was, all wrapped up and tied in blue ribbon’ (Moe, 1976). P.B.: there was, late 1940s, a popular song with the refrain
‘Put (or wrap?) it in a box, tie it with a ribbon, and throw it in the deep blue sea’, with may have derived from—or perhaps
all’s rug (or all rug or it’s all rug). ‘It’s all Rug, c. [i.e., cant]. The Game is secured’ (B.E., Gent, 1698)—all is safe: late C17
—mid 19. Cf both the proverbial snug as a bug in a rug and:
all’s snug! All is safe: an underworld c.p. of C18—mid 19. A var. of prec. See U for a more detailed treatment.
See: right up; set ’em up.
See: just my a.
See: see you later.
See: come aloft.
See: I want to be; let him a.; let me a.; we are not a.; and:
alone I did it is both Brit, and US. My only early record of this latish C19–20 c.p. occurs in Act I of Alfred Sutro’s The
Fascinating Mr Vanderbildt, performed and pub’d in 1906:
VANDERBILDT: Your doing, of course? CLARICE: Alone I did it.
As Anthony Burgess pointed out in TLS, 26 Aug. 1977, alone I did it had a prototype: ‘It was Coriolanus who first said Alone I did it (V, v, 114).’ That passage did not, at that time, create a c.p.; yet a latish C19 revival of the Shakespearian tragedy so titled prob. started it on its c.p. course. By 1940 ob.; by 1970 almost †, but not yet, 1978, entirely so. P.B.: there is also the deliberately illiterate var. alone I done it. Cf. the rather different all my own work. along.
See: get along. Alphonse.
See: after you. already.
See: all right; it’s a living. [although (or though) I say it who (occ, that) shouldn’t, with orig. illiterate, but soon deliberately joc., var. (al)though I says it as shouldn’t. A borderline case, which, after much thought, I adjudge to be not a c.p. but a hackneyed quot’n, going at least as far back, as though I say it that should not say it (often, in C19–20,…that shouldn’t) in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Wit at Several Weapons, II, ii.] always be nice to people on your way up: you may meet them (again) on your way down; but perhaps more often without always. I did not become conscious of this as a c.p.—for several years I had regarded it as merely a cynical epigram— until mid-1975: and then, within a month, I read John Braine’s exemplarily intelligent, witty, genuinely exciting novel of espionage, The Pious Agent, 1975. There, a senior official of the KGB said to an up-and-coming young agent, ‘And, as the saying goes, always be nice to people on your way up. You may meet them again on your way down.’ Cf this from ‘Number Ten’ in John Osborne’s The Entertainer (prod, and pub’d in 1957), where Billy, the old-timer, says: ‘Well, Eddie’s still up there all right. He’s still up there. (To Jean.) I always used to say to him, we all used to say: “Eddie, always be good”’, etc. Occ. either good or kind has been substituted for nice.
It seems, however, that it was orig. US: Bartlett attributes it (with a cautionary ‘also attributed to Jimmy Durante’, who was born in 1893) to Wilson Mizner, in the form be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet ’em on your way down. Ashley, 1982, supplies the US var. don’t be nasty to people… See also as you go up… always in trouble, like a Drury Lane whore is a late C19–20 phrase reprehending one who wallows in self-pity, also one who deplores a series of personal misfortunes. Prostitutes frequenting this area have always tended to dramatize their troubles —or so the legend goes. always merry and bright! ‘Alfred Lester, music-hall star—who was always lugubrious, needless to say’ (VIBS). P.B.: earlier C20; but Lester was quoting: see cheer up, cully… always read the small print!, with emphasis on both always and small. In business and legal matters, make damn’ sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for: since c. 1955. This print is so small that you endanger your eyesight if you do read it carefully; if you don’t read it, you merely risk bankruptcy. am I boring you?
See: excuse my wart! am I burned up! Am I angry!—or irritated!—or resentful! A US c.p. dating since c. 1920. Berrey. am I hurting you?
See: you’re kneeling… am I insulated! and am I irrigated! Am I insulted—am I irritated! Both of these US c.pp., recorded by Berrey, were short-lived: say 1930–45. Clearly intentional puns, not malapropisms. But the first lingered: A.B. writes, 1978, ‘I’ve heard it, mid 1950s, thus: “I represent that remark—it insulates me”; I think the American comedian Jimmy Durante used it on occasion.’ Cf I resemble that remark. am I is or am I ain’t?, am I or am I not?; are we is or are we ain’t?, are we or aren’t we? The former is a derivative of is you is or is you ain’t?, q.v. amazed.
See: I was a. ambition.
See: no ambition. ambulance.
See: get the a. American.
See: great American; speak all. AMERICAN BORDERLINERS: HISTORICAL. Of the various candidates, three stand out from the rest:
damn the torpedoes—full steam ahead!;
don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes;
you may fire when you are ready, Gridley.
The first is listed in, e.g., Burton Stevenson’s Book of Quotations as damn the torpedoes! and attributed to David Glasgow Farragut, at the Battle of Mobile Bay on 5 Aug. 1864. As a c.p., from c. 1880, it=damn it all, we’ll take the risk! R.C. charitably reminds me that, ‘to give more point to this quotation, one should be aware that the “torpedoes” …were what we now call “mines”.’
The second was the command issued by the US commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. Being the only one of the three to have attained British currency, this has been accorded an individual entry. The third is, in BQ, attributed to Admiral George Dewey as having been said to the Captain of his flagship at the Battle of Manila on 1 May 1898. (It occurs in Dewey’s Autobiography at p. 214.)
Of the trio, J.W.C., 1968, says that he thinks they qualify as c.pp. ‘When they are used, they are almost always used without reference to the original situation. But I will agree that, if there is a clear and valuable distinction between famous quotation, cliché, and catch phrase, they may be the first or the second rather than the third.’ I’d say that damn the torpedoes and you may fire when you are ready, Gridley are both famous quot’n and cliché and that don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes is both quot’n and c.p., but in C20 predominantly the latter. AMERICAN BORDERLINERS: THE WEST
In Ramon F.Adams, Western Words: A Dictionary, 1944, rev. ed. 1968, I notice in the introduction such phrases as a heart in his brisket as big as a saddle blanket, so drunk he couldn’t hit the ground with his hat in three throws, raised hell and put a chunk under it, he’d fight you till hell freezes over and then skate with you on the ice. The solid core of the last, the orig. c.p., is clearly till hell freezes over, q.v.; likewise, the third is a fanciful elab. of the coll. raise hell. Genuine c. pp. from this delightful book (which I quote with the very generous permission of the University of Oklahoma Press) will be found elsewhere in these pages. AMERICAN POLITICAL SLOGANS JUST FAILING TO MAKE THE GRADE
Dr Joseph T.Shipley, in a letter, 1974, writes thus pertinently and convincingly:
remember the Alamo: after the garrison was wiped out, became the battle cry of General Houston in Mexico, 1836, when Texas was annexed to the US. remember the Maine: after the battleship was attacked in Havana Harbor in 1896, the battle cry for the war against Spain. remember Pearl Harbor: after the airplane strike of 7 December 1941, the battle-cry rallying our country against Japan.
All of these seem to me to be propaganda slogans, rather than catch phrases. I agree, but include them, nonetheless. AMERICAN RESPONSES TO STUPID QUESTIONS
Examples of such phrases inevitably occur elsewhere in the dictionary. But the ensuing contribution from a young American deserves to be quoted. ‘In response to what is considered a stupid question I’ve often heard nonsense retorts such as the following from people throughout the country:
do chickens have lips?
can snakes do push-ups?
do frogs have water-tight ass-holes?
is the Pope Catholic?
does a bear shit in the woods?
These last two phrases are frequently used together in the variant is a bear Catholic—does the Pope shit in the woods?’
(George A.Krzymowski, a medical student, New Orleans, 1978). I had heard is the Pope Catholic?, which has had some
currency in UK since c. 1950 at latest. The others sound not only very American, but characteristically undergraduate.
Nevertheless, Simon Levene, 1979, vouches for the adoption in UK of is the Pope Catholic? and does a bear shit in the
amuse yourself: don’t mind me! Meaning ‘Have your fun!’ it was orig. US, mostly teenagers’ and students’ of the early
1920s, as recorded by McKnight; adopted in UK c. 1924, but by 1960 virtually †. R.C. notes, 1977, ‘the curtailed version,
don’t mind me, clearly implies “you’re making a nuisance of yourself!”’ P.B.: but in Brit., I think, it is the sarcastic fling of a
youngster expressing hurt at being left out of some game or enterprise.
See: we are not a.
and a double helping too.
See: double helping.
and a merry Christmas to you too! An ironic c.p., dating since c. 1930, and virtually synon. with ‘The same to you—with
knobs on!’ (Petch, 1969.) P.B.: but it is also sometimes used in the sense of ‘Thank you for nothing!’, i.e. you haven’t helped
me one bit by what you have just done.
and all like that. A var. of and like that.
and all that (i.e., and all such things) was SE until 1929, when Robert Graves changed all that in his very distinguished war book, Goodbye to All That. [E.P. later reconsidered thus:] I have come to think that, since WW2, the phrase has been gradually reverting to its status as an ordinary free-and-easy example of good coll. Eng., and that it had completed the cycle by 1970. The influence of Robert Graves’s title had been reinforced by that of W.C.Sellar & R.J.Yeatman’s skit on English history, 1066 and All That, which appeared in 1930. Cf. ten sixty-six… and all that jazz. And all that sort of thing; ‘and all the rest concerning the subject under discussion, as in “Sex and all that jazz”. 1960 plus’ (Granville, in a letter 1969). Adopted in UK from the US, perhaps via Can. ; by W & F recorded in a quot’n from a newspaper article of 16 Feb. 1958, but already current a year or two earlier. In US, it bore-as indeed it came, in UK, to bear-the further sense ‘and all that nonsense’. [and away we go! This has been claimed as a US c.p. Yet the general consensus of opinion is that it isn’t a genuine c.p. at all. I have gone to considerable trouble to find out. It formed an exit line of ‘the American vaudeville, nightclub, radio, movie and TV comic Jackie Gleason [in] his first comedy-variety series on television in the early 1950s’—as that esteemed critic, Maurice Dolbier, wrote to me in 1978. Cf. how sweet it is, q.v. P.B.: with the accent heavily on way, the phrase has had some currency in UK.] and Bob’s your uncle! And all will be well; all will be perfect: since c. 1890. ‘You go and ask for the job—and he remembers your name—and Bob’s your uncle.’ Aus. as well as Brit., a fairly late example occurring in Michael Gilbert’s ‘Modus Operandi’, a story in the collection entitled Stay of Execution, 1971, and an earlier in John Arden’s When Is a Door Not a Door?, prod. 1958, pub’d 1967. The origin remains a mystery; just poss. it was prompted by the cant (then low-slang) phrase, all is bob, ‘all is safe’. Folk-etymologically, the origin is said to lie in the open and unashamed nepotism practised by some British premier or other famous politician, as the late Frank Shaw reminded me late in 1968. An occ. C20 elab. is to add and Mary Cook’s your aunt, to which L.A. adds, 1976, the var. and Fanny’s your aunt, which, he says, was made simply because of an association with fanny, the female pudend, esp. among raffish adolescent males.
P.B.: in 1979, Mrs Ursula Roberts wrote from Hong Kong, drawing my attention to the following in P.Brendon, Eminent Edwardians, 1979: ‘When, in 1887, Balfour was unexpectedly promoted to the vital frontline post of Chief Secretary for Ireland by his uncle Robert, Lord Salisbury (a stroke of nepotism that inspired the catch-phrase “Bob’s your uncle”), Parnell’s supporters derided him as “the scented popinjay”…’ and call it ‘it’. Let’s say the job is done, as in ‘I’ll just take the duster round the room, and call it “it”’ (Granville, 1969): mostly domestic: since c. 1950. and did he marry poor blind Nell? An Aus. c.p. dating from c. 1910 or perhaps a little earlier. I cannot—nor should I try to-do better than to quote my pen-friend Barry Prentice:
A rhetorical question asked about anything improbable. Also as a euphemism for like fucking hell. Ex the saga of Poor Blind Nell. (Cf Ballocky Bill the Sailor, The Bastard from the Bush, etc.) As in ‘and did he marry…?’—‘He did!— (softly) Like fuckin(g) hell!’ Poor Blind Nell itself is used to describe any simple girl who is over-trusting where men are concerned.
and don’t you forget it!—and being often omitted. A c.p. orig. (—1888) US; adopted c. 1890. After being admonitory, it became an almost pointless intensive. The expression so infuriated John Farmer that, in 1889, he inveighed thus: ‘One of the popular catch-phrases which every now and then seize hold of the popular taste (or want of taste) and run their course like wildfire through all the large centres of population. They convey no special idea, rational or irrational, and can only be described as utterly senseless and vulgar.’ Vulgar they often are: only rarely are they senseless, for although the meaning is often imprecise, the general purport is usually very clear indeed. Berrey, 1942, classifies it as a c.p. of affirmation. R.C. adds, 1977, ‘generally implies that “it” is an unpleasant but unforgettable fact—e.g., “I’m the boss around here, and don’t you forget it!”’ In UK, either is often tacked on; in the US, too (A.B., 1978). and God help those who are caught helping themselves! A witty Aus. comment on the cliché-proverb ‘God helps those who help themselves’. I first heard it c. 1913, and it was already common usage. and he didn’t! is a tailors’ c.p., referring to—or implying—a discreditable action: c. 1870–1920. and her mother came too. In his Popular Music of the 20’s, 1976, Ronald Pearsall writes, ‘A to Z, at the Prince of Wales [in London] starred Gertrude Lawrence and Jack Buchanan, produced a first-rate song in “And her mother came too” with music by Ivor Novello, and ran for 433 performances’ in the early 1920s. It caught on as a c.p., which itself ran on until c. 1939 and then lingered for a decade. and his name is mud! An exclamatory c.p., commenting on a foolish speech in the House of Commons or on one who has been heavily defeated or disgraced: since c. 1815. In C20 the meaning is weaker: merely ‘he has been discredited; he is out of favour with, e.g., a woman’. Also my name is mud and is my name mud, with is emphasised, ‘mostly because of some blunder’ (A.B., 1978). Moreover, in some parts of the US, it means ‘He faces ruin or even death’. The association with the Dr Mudd who set W.J.Booth’s leg after that assassin of Lincoln had escaped from Ford’s Theatre, and who was unfairly tried as an accessory after the fact, is folk-etymology. Cf the folk-etym. recorded at break a leg. (J.W.C., 1978.) and how! indicates intensive emphasis of what one has just said or intensive agreement with what someone else has just said: orig. US (Berrey), dating from c. 1925 and prob. translating the e come! of the very large Italian population; adopted in UK by 1935 at latest: Frank Shaw, 1969, says that it came from early US ‘talkies’ and had very much of a vogue in the UK during the 1930s, the vogue, by the way, lasting until at least 1945 and the usage still (1975) fairly active; it was moreover, recorded by EP in A Dictionary of Clichés, 1940. In Gelett Burgess, Two O’clock Courage, 1934: ‘I said: “But I’m afraid you’re ill!”—“And how!” she said dreamily. “Ain’t I got a right to be if I want to, mister?” Her eyes didn’t even open.’
Clarence B.Kelland, Speak Easily, c. 1935:
‘Is a drinking-song essential?’ I asked.
‘And how!’ said Mr Greb.
The phrase recurs in Kelland’s Dreamland, 1938. An early English example occurs in Maurice Lincoln’s witty novel, Oh!
Definitely, 1933; and in Alec Waugh’s Wheels within Wheels, 1933, a young American exclaims: ‘Oh boy, if you could see
the look in my mother’s face at times! She thinks she’s living in a fairy tale. And as for that girl, oh boy and how! You should
just see her!’ Cf:
and I don’t mean maybe! (or occ. …perhaps!)—with and often omitted. Berrey, 1942, records both as Americanisms: and
Americanisms they remained. They seem to have arisen c. 1920. Benny Green states that the phrase ‘was established by the
popular song of 1922, “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby”, second line, “No sir, don’t mean maybe”.’ And Fain gives the composers
of the song as Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn.
and like it! ‘A naval expression anticipating a grouse and added to any instruction for an awkward and unwanted job’ (H &
P); it prob. arose during WW1. P.B.: by mid—C20 it had spread beyond the RN to the other Services; I recall my ex-Gunner
officer father saying, e.g. ‘So they don’t want to fix it? Well, they can jolly well get on with it-and like it!’ Cf away you go,
and like that. ‘The summarized continuation, or indication of a continued series, has long been a staple of kids’ talk. Etcetera
etcetera was followed by blah-blah-blah, and more recently by and all that stuff or and like that’ (William Safire, ‘Y’know What
I’m Saying?’ in The New York Times Magazine, 23 July 1978): since c. 1976(?) P.B.: and all like that is another version. I
have also heard, c. 1980, and and and, and among Brit. Army signallers, the vocalised morse dee-dah dee-dah dee-dah. Cf
and all that jazz.
and little Audrey laughed and laughed and laughed.
See: little Audrey…
and no error!
See: and no mistake!
and no flies. And no doubt about it all: a c.p. tag of the lower and lower-middle classes of c. 1835–70. (Mayhew, 1851.) No
flies are allowed to settle on it and thus obscure the patent truth. See also no flies…
and no kidding! I mean it. An extension of no kidding!, q.v. Berrey.
and no mistake, dating from c. 1810 (OED records it for 1818) and meaning ‘undoubtedly’, has generated the much later,
rather less used, and no error (recorded by Baumann): very gen. until c. 1920, but not yet (1976) †. Both of these phrases
were adopted in the US: M records them in 1891 and illuminatingly adds, ‘“Don’t you make no error” is the ungrammatical
method of asserting that what has been said is a fact.’ Berrey notes and no mistake as an ‘expression of affirmation’.
and no mogue? A tailors’ c.p., implying slight incredulity, ‘That’s true?’: since c. 1880. Something of a mystery, mogue
perhaps derives from Fr. moquerie but more prob. derives from gypsies’ and Ger. underworld mogeln, to cheat, reaching into
England by way of Yiddish.
and no whistle is another tailors’ c.p., implying that the speaker is, in the fact, although not in appearance, referring to
himself: c. 1860–1900.
and not a bone in the truck imputes time-wasting during hours of work, as in ‘Ten o’clock—and not a bone in the truck’
(loading hasn’t even been started): mostly in factories and mostly Aus.: C20. Cf eleven o’clock…, q.v.
and now for something completely different. ‘Originated with the BBC TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and
satirised the news programme introducers’ habit of using the phrase to link two dissimilar news (or magazine programme)
items. Now so well known that no radio man can possibly use it’ (Derek Parker, 1977). The Monty Python series was first
broadcast in 1969.
and once more, for the gods! ‘Addressed to someone who sneezes (or, more rarely, breaks wind) several times. The allusion
I take to be theatrical’ (Keith Sayers, 1984). P.B.: but cf the aversion of bad luck in the similar use of bless you!, supposed to
refer back to the days when a sneeze was a symptom of the onset of the plague.
and one for the road.
See: one for the road.
[and so he died and and then she died are Restoration-drama tags verging on c. pp.; but only verging. See Dryden’s plays in
Montague Summers’s edn at p. 419.]
and so she prayed me to tell ye (with slight variations) is an almost meaningless c.p. originating in Restoration comedy—
for instance, in Duffet’s burlesque, The Mock Tempest, 1675.
and so to bed! is both a famous quot’n from Pepys’s Diary (1659 onwards) and a c.p. since 1926, when James Bernard Pagan
(1873–1933) had his very successful comedy, And So to Bed, played on the London stage; when pub’d in 1927, it bore the
sub-title ‘An Adventure with Pepys’.
But, as Vernon Noble has kindly reminded me, 1974, it had been becoming a c.p. for perhaps seventy years before the play established it as one: ‘The Diary of Samuel Pepys became familiar to the public with Lord Braybrooke’s text, especially his fourth edition of 1854. Revisions in the latter part of the century extended the Diary’s popularity.’ and so we say farewell. Usu. said in a mock-American accent, it is a burlesque’d quot’n become c.p., from the fade-out to B-grade film travelogues. The great comedian and magnificent mimic, Peter Sellers, epitomised them all in his superb skit which ends ‘and so we say “farewell” to Bal-ham, gateway to the South!’, the record of which helped so much to popularise the phrase in the late 1950s. (P.B.) and so what? An early occ. var. of so what? and that ain’t hay! is recorded by W & F as occurring always after the mention of a specific sum and as meaning ‘that’s a lot of money’, e.g. in ‘He makes $30,000 a year, and that ain’t hay’. They neither assign nor hazard a date, but the OED’s 2nd Sup. has it in a quot’n from Raymond Chandler, The Lady in the Lake, 1944. The late John Lardner, brilliant son of famous father, Ring Lardner, writes in the ‘Minstrel Memories’ article forming part of Strong Cigars and Lovely Women, a selection pub’d in 1951, of pieces appearing in Newsweek, 1949–51:
If Louie Ambers
Should come our way.
He brings the title,
And that ain’t hay.
an extension showing how very familiar the phrase must have been by (say) 1950.
and that goes. That’s final—there’s no more to be said. US: since c. 1925, perhaps much earlier, but I lack a record earlier
than Berrey. R.C., 1977, writes that the phrase was ‘dead and buried by 1970’. Cf:
and that goes double! The same to you!: US: since c. 1930. Berrey.
and that is that.
See: and that’s that!
and that’s flat!—and occ. omitted. Of that’s flat, Berrey, 1942, says that it is ‘used to emphasize or conclude a preceding
remark’. I’d guess that it has been in US use since late C19. In Brit, use it has been so long established—it occurs as early as
Shakespeare—that it cannot be rated as a c.p. at all.
and that’s no lie, a c.p. of emphasis, implies that the speaker isn’t too sure that he’ll be believed: since c. 1920.
and that’s that!—and occ. omitted; emphatic var. of:
and that is that; also well, that’s that! The first is both Brit, and US, Berrey explaining it as ‘that is the end of the matter, so
much for that’; so too the second; the third, connoting a rueful resignation, occurs in Terence Rattigan’s While the Sun Shines,
performed on Christmas Eve, 1943, at the Globe Theatre, London, and pub’d in 1944:
MABEL:…When I read you were getting married I thought, well, that’s that. He’ll just fade quietly away and I won’t ever see him again.
I cannot remember having heard the phrase before I came to England in 1921; certainly not during WW1, although I strongly suspect that the phrase (and) that’s that! arose precisely then. The apparently formal, but really the emphatic, and that is that occurs in Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, prod, and pub’d in 1962: GEORGE TO WIFE MARTHA: I’ll hold your hand when it’s dark and you’re afraid of the bogey man…but I will not light your cigarette. And that, as they say, is that.
and that’s your lot! That’s all you’re going to receive, so don’t expect any more: since c. 1920. Often used by wives to their
husbands, or by women to their lovers. See also aye, aye, that’s yer lot!
and the band played on. ‘Things went on as usual-or even more vague in meaning [than then the band began to play, q.v.]’
(Leechman, 1969, on the Can. usage). Philip M. Arnold of Oklahoma provides the source of this c.p., 1978: ‘In 1895 a song
titled “The Band Played on”, with words by John F.Palmer, was published in New York. This is the refrain, which is still
remembered in the United States by older people:
“Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde,
And the band played on.
He’d glide across the floor with the girl he ador’d,
And the band played on.
But his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded,
The poor girl would shake with alarm.
He’d ne’er leave the girl with the strawberry curl,
And the band played on.”’
and the best of British (luck).
See: best of British luck to you.
and the next object is…! ‘Phrase used by the Mystery Voice in the radio quiz Twenty Questions—raised to catchphrase level
by Norman Hackforth’s deep, fruity rendering of such gems as: “And the next object is…the odour in the larder”’ (VIBS).
and the rest! has, since c, 1860, sarcastically and trenchantly implied that something important or, at the least, essential has
been omitted—or that reticence has been carried too far.
and then some! This Americanism goes back to c. 1910 and—on the evidence of OED—was anglicized in or c. 1913. The
thoroughness of its adoption by Britain is proved in an odd way: Prof. J.W.Mackail in his Aeneid, 1930, finds a parallel in
Book VIII, line 487, tormenti genus.
The US phrase seems to have arisen as a mere elab. of the Scots and some (‘and much more so’), as in Ross’s pastoral poem Helemore, 1768, and, perhaps more significantly, in lexicographer Jamieson’s exemplification, ‘She’s as bonny as you, and some’; and again in EDD. And then some! was current in Western Canada by early C20: witness John Sandilands, Western Canadian Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1913, ‘…an afterthought to suggest that there is any amount of excellence expected or held in reserve.’ and then the band played.
See: then the band began to play. and there’s more where that came from is one of the many and various c.pp. we owe to The Goon Show’, which, beginning as ‘The Crazy People’, ran from 28 May 1951 until 28 Jan. 1960. It had excellent producers and script writers (esp. Eric Sykes); its three best actors were Spike Milligan, original, provocative, in the best sense anarchistic; Peter Sellers, with his superb flair for characterisation and his brilliant mimicry; and Harry Secombe, central figure, rock-like personality holding them all together, ‘the catalyst’. They were ably and selflessly assisted by others. (See Barry Took, Laughter in the Air, 1976, which I paraphrase.)
There have been three collections of ‘Goon Show’ programmes [in book form]. There has also been Harry Secombe’s Goon for Lunch, 1975. P.B., 1977, has excerpted for me the following passage, with comments: ‘When the Show comes to an end…, the [studio] audience leaves— some of them bewildered, the aficionados gleefully repeating the Bluebottle—Eccles exchanges, or the familiar catch phrase: “And there’s more where that came from”.’
‘This’, says P.B., ‘really did catch on, sometimes with an emphatic [var.] “And there’s plenty more where…”, and is still to be heard occasionally, even from speakers who quite probably are unaware of the origin.’
P.B.: sadly, perhaps I should add that when I asked E.P. if he used to listen to ‘The Goon Show’, he admitted that he had never heard it; he ‘seldom had time to listen to the radio’. The show seems to be as popular as ever: the BBC are now, Summer 1982, running a repeat series of the pick of the programmes. and to prove it, I’m here!
See: I’ve arrived… and very nice too!
See: very nice too! and what’s the matter with Hannah? is ‘a slangy c.p., generally tailed on to a statement or remark without the slightest sense of congruity’ (Farmer): US: ? c. 1875–1900. P.B.: poor old Hannah seems to ‘cop it’ in c. pp.: Cf Sister Hannah…, and that’s the man as married Hannah! and when she bumps she bounces.
See: when she bumps…. and who am I to contradict him?
See: Who am I… and whose little girl are you? And who may you be?: a male c.p., dating from c. 1905. Perhaps it orig. in the film world, where, at parties, the stars sometimes took their children. On the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine of 11 June 1972 appeared the face of a lovely girl and her famous and lovely film actress mother, the caption being ‘And whose little girl are you?’—with the explanatory sub-title, ‘The stars and their daughters’. A.B., 1978, ‘Sometimes, if a man were in quest of sexual intimacy, he might add “tonight”.’ and you too!, occ. shortened to and you! A C20 c.p. addressed to someone suspect of unexpressed insult or recrimination. In the Armed Forces, it has, since 1914 or 1915, presupposed an unvoiced fuck you!, as, e.g., from a soldier awarded detention, with the officer saying or, more usu. thinking, and you (too)!. P.B.: to judge from Bob Newhart’s splendid monologue, ‘The Driving Instructor’, the US equivalent is and you, fella! Cf so are you! angel(s).
See: be an a.; house devil; roll on, death. anger.
See: ‘fuck me!’; more in anger. angle of dangle is inversely proportional to the heat of the meat—the. This was a c.p. among better-educated National Servicemen of the 1950s, axiomatic for the degree of male sexual excitement. E.P. slightly misconstrued a note I sent him about it, 1974, but commented in his entry for this 2nd ed., ‘it might be compared to Senior Common Room wit in its mellower moments—well, almost.’ (P.B.) angry.
See: I’m not mad; if you are angry. Angus.
See: I don’t know whether. animal
See: there ain’t no sech. Ann, Anna, Anne, Annie.
See: how old; I’m Anne; san fairy; Sister Anna; up in Annie’s; and: Anna Maria Jeanetta Sophia Aronia Bonia Lovell-Frye-Giles. A chant, perhaps from a music-hall song, used by my grand-mothers to delight and mystify their children, early C20. (P.B.) [anniversary of the siege of Gibraltar—the. ‘Since the great siege lasted from 1779 to 1783, this could be unofficially celebrated whenever desired’ (Rear-Adm. P.W.Brock, 1969): toast; late (?middle) C19–20.] another.
See: ask another; if it isn’t; tell me a.; that’s another; there’s another; you are a.; you have another. another clean shirt oughta (ought to) see ya (or you) out. You look as if you might die at any moment: NZ since c. 1930 or a little earlier. It occurs in, e.g, Gordon Slatter, A Gun in My Hand, 1959. Clumsily humorous rather than callously hard-boiled. another county heard from! ‘A c.p. used when one of a company breaks wind or interjects something’ (Leechman): Can.: since c. 1935. From ‘the receiving of election results from various counties’. In the US, however, although of the same electoral orig. and arising much earlier, this c.p. means that a ‘previously unknown and often unexpected and despised opinion has been expressed’ (J.W.C., 1977). another day, another dollar. ‘Said thankfully at the end of a hardworking day. I have often used this myself and have heard many others use it’ (Mrs Shirley M.Pearce, 1975). Since the late 1940s and presumably adopted from the US, where it has been current since c. 1910: ‘We meet someone and inquire: “How goes it?” or “How’s tricks?” or “How you doing?” and more often than not our friend answers, “Another day, another dollar”, meaning he is “keeping his head above water”, holding on, not getting rich, but still working…. I have heard the expression most of my adult life’ (W.J.B. 1975). In his The Kidnap Kid, 1975, Tony Kendrick employs it allusively. Anthony Burgess in his review of the 1st ed. of this Dictionary, TLS, 26 Aug. 1977, noted that the dovetail answer is a million days, a million dollars.
‘This was a saying that a [London] docker had when it had been a bad day and they looked forward to earning another “dollar” the next day. This was usually followed by saying that “you can’t make a good day out of a bad one”’ (Ash). Meanwhile, back in the USA, that superb master of the unconventional rhyme, Ogden Nash (1902–71), could end his 1960s verse, ‘A Man Can Complain, Can’t He’ (A Lament for Those Who Think Old):
I’m old too soon, yet young too long;
Could Swift himself have planned it droller?
Timor vitae conturbat me;
Another day, another dolor.
another fellow’s is applied to something not new-not by its possessor but by some wag: c. 1880–1910. B & L. another fine mess you’ve gotten (US) or got (UK) me into! This c.p. of the 1930s and 1940s, taken from the Laurel and Hardy films ‘has come back into general use due to the re-run of their old films on TV’ (John Skehan, 1977). Hardy’s injured look as he says this to his partner has an irresistible tragicomic poignancy. Often prec. by here’s. Little Stan Laurel (1890– 1965) and fat Oliver Hardy (189 2–1957) made a wonderful pair; the phrase was Hardy’s standing reproach to his—on the screen—duller-witted partner; in the fact, Laurel was the more intelligent of the two—and the better actor. (Much indebted to Maurice Wedgewood, 1978.) another good man gone! A men’s ruefully regretful remark passed on a man either engaged to be married or, esp., very recently married: late C19–20. Petch remarks that, since c. 1920, it has had a var.: another good man gone wrong! another little drink won’t do us any harm: since c. 1920. From the refrain of a very popular song. another nail in my coffin. In 1974, Vernon Noble sent me this note: ‘Long before medical science officially condemned cigarettes as a hazard to health there was a catch phrase “Another nail in my coffin” as a person lighted a cigarette. This was an ironical answer to those who rebuked a cigarette-smoker who coughed: usually to an anxious wife. I have known this phrase in the North of England for something like 50 years’: and I have known it used by Australians since c. 1910 and in the South of England since 1921. Dr J.T.Shipley reminds me, 1977, of the poss. relevance of the old couplet: It’s not the cough that carries him off, But the coffin they carry him off in. another one for the van! Someone else has had to be taken to the lunatic asylum: Cockneys’: since c. 1920. P.B.: more prob. a not very subtle way of saying ‘You’re mad!’ Cf send for the green van! another push and you’d have been a Chink (or a nigger). A brutal c.p. employed by workmen in a slanging match, or by youths bullying boys in a factory: C20, but, for nigger, esp. since c. 1950. This insult imputes a colour-no-objection promiscuity in the addressee’s mother.
another Redskin bit (occ. and loosely, hit) the dust. A boys’ and youths’ c.p.: late C19—early 20. From boys’ books, written mostly by American authors, but read very widely in Britain too. (L.A., 1977.) another voice from the peanut gallery is often addressed to an irrelevant or insignificant interrupter, whether from the cheapest seats at a theatre or a music-hall, or at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London: C20 Brit., although supplied by a true American conversant with the speech-ways of England, viz. A.B., 1978. answer.
See: ask a silly; don’t answer; I decline; if you have to; knows all; there’s no answer. answer is a lemon—the; also the answer’s a lemon. A derisive reply to a query—or a request—needing a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ but hoping for ‘yes’; a ‘sarcastic remark—acidic in its conclusion’, as Noble aptly calls it; orig. (c. 1910) US—cf the US slang lemon, used since c. 1900, for ‘a sharp verbal thrust, criticism, or retort’ (W & F); adopted in England c. 1919. Its origin lies either in a lemon’s sourness or, according to legend, in an improper, indeed an exceedingly smutty, story circulating during the 1920s. In Maurice Lincoln’s novel, Oh! Definitely, 1933, occurs this illuminating dialogue:
‘Written by some fellow with long hair who lives in
Bloomsbury, I expect,’ said Horace.
‘Why?’ said Peter.
‘Well, why would he have long hair like that and live
where you said?’
‘The answer’s a lemon,’ said Horace.
In the US, the thought is expressed a little differently. In 1974, my loyal old friend W.J.B. wrote to me thus:
In the US we have a phrase I drew a lemon or It turned out to be a lemon, etc. If we buy a new car which has ‘bugs’ in it, isn’t working properly, we say, It’s a lemon.
For years we have had slot machines in gambling joints. You put in a coin, pull a lever, and a row of the conventional objects appear on the face of the machine, bells, plums, etc. If you get a whole row of the same objects, all balls, say, you win, and out drops a handful of coins. If you hit the ‘jackpot’, as they say, you win big. You probably know all about this. But the point I want to make is that you may draw a whole row of yellow lemons, and you get nothing. Lemons mean a bust, a disappointment. Hence, when someone says I drew a lemon, the slot machine connotation is well understood.
But Shipley, 1977, suggests that it prob. derives from a very popular song, c. 1905, with its last lines of the chorus:
‘But I picked a lemon in the garden of love, Where they say only peaches grow.’
answer is (or answer’s) in the infirmary (—my or the). My answer is Yes: late C19—early 20; ob. by 1937, virtually † by 1945. A pun on in the affirmative. Hence, ‘My answer’s unfavourable’ or ‘The news is bad’: since c. 1910 and, immediately after, much more gen. than the earlier sense, but itself † by 1950. answer is in the plural, and they bounce—the. ‘A polite (?) way of saying “Balls!” [nonsense]. The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations, 1971, credits it to Sir Edward Lutyens (1869–1944), “before a Royal Commission”. My guess is that it was already an established c.p. when he used it’ (Sanders, 1978). My opinion too. By 1978, slightly ob. P.B.: cf the ambiguous comment scrawled, e.g. in the margin of a report with which the reader disagrees: ‘Round objects’. Antonio.
See: oh, oh. any B.F. (or b.f. or bloody fool) can be uncomfortable. ‘Alleged to be a Guards’ maxim. It certainly expressed the attitude of the Guards Armoured Division when I had dealings with them in Schleswig-Holstein in 1946. Wonderful chaps!’ (Rear-Adm. P.W.Brock, CB, DSO, 1969): whether maxim or not, certainly a c.p. and, later, enjoying a much wider currency. Sanders, 1978, writes ‘Heard as early as 1939 from a WW1 “dug-out”… It is, I suspect, as old as warfare.’ It sounds, as any fool can be or can make himself uncomfortable, like a Napoleonic Wars (1796–1815) sarcasm: I’ll go even further and say that this C20 c.p. is prob. based on some famous general’s comment on the discomforts of a long campaign—and who more likely than Wellington? Several very knowledgeable friends (and their friends) agree that it does sound characteristic of Wellington. any colour you like, so long as it’s black. Henry Ford (1863–1947) instituted the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and was its president from then until 1919 and again in 1943–45. In the interval, his son Edsel (1893–1943) was the president. These words formed Henry Ford’s offer of the Model T to American buyers; and during the later 1940s this witty slogan began to catch on with the Brit, public; by 1950, it had become well established as a c.p., with the dry, humorous connotation, ‘That’s your limited choice, so take it or leave it, but I advise you to take it’. (Based on a note from John Skehan, 1977.) any complaints? ‘is still used by ex-Servicemen as a way of opening a conversation where there’s nothing else to say, [and] stand by your beds! is still flippantly said by them when somebody comes into a room’ (an anon, correspondent, 1978). The references are to WW2 and after. Orig. the former was asked by the Orderly Officer doing his meal-time rounds of the Other Ranks’ dining-hall; the latter was the command usu. given by the NCO in charge of a barrack-room when an inspecting officer entered. Cf the RAF’s scurrilous couplet:
Stand by your beds! Here comes the Air Chief Marshal;
Four great rings upon his arm-and still he wants your arsehole.
See also the entry at stand by your beds! (P.B.) any day you ’ave the money, I ’ave the time. A prostitutes’ or, derivatively, an enthusiastic amateurs’ or near-amateurs’ c.p., dating since c. 1910 and used mostly by Londoners. See Charles Drummond, Death at the Furlong Post, 1967, where the
c.p. is employed allusively: ‘The Inspector…laid down seven pound notes. “Fair and square?”—“Yes, love, any day you ’ave
the money, I ’ave the time.” Ag. laughed.’ Also US. ‘I think there was a song in the 1930s or 1940s entitled “If you’ve got the
money, honey, I’ve got the time”’ (A.B., 1978). P.B.: the phrase has led, in UK, to the c.p. response to the innocent query,
‘Have you (or has anybody) got the time?’ (i.e. what o’clock is it?): I’ve got the time if you’ve got the money. Another
unhelpful answer is if you’ve got the inclination. See also I’ve got the time…and yes, but not…
any fool can be uncomfortable.
See: any B.F.…
any joy? Any luck?: orig. US, since c. 1930, according to E.P., but very widely used indeed, in the Brit. Services, esp. in RAF
after (and perhaps during) WW2. It had become, by early 1950s, jargon: when a fighter, airborne, failed to find his target
aircraft, he would report to ground control ‘No joy’, and continue to report thus until he either found the target, or was forced
to return to base. (P.B.)
any more for any more? Does anyone want a second helping?: military mess-orderlies’ c.p. of WW1—and, fig., later; by
1939, slightly ob.—yet still far from †. In WW1, ‘also used by the man running a Crown and Anchor board or a House outfit,
asking others to join in before the game commenced’ (B & P).
any more for the Skylark? A joc. c.p. of C20. The invitation of seaside pleasure-boat owners, so many of these boats so named,
became a generalized invitation.
any more, Mrs Moore?—is there or have you. Merely an elab. of any more: C20. (P.B.)
any of these men here? Dating from c. 1910, this is a military Other Ranks’ c.p. A wag, imitating a sergeant-major at a kit
inspection, would ask, ‘Knife, fork, spoon’ and sometimes a reply would come, ‘Yes, he is’; either the wag or a third party
would obligingly ask, ‘Who is?’ and would receive the obliging reply, ‘Arseholes’.
any publicity, good or bad, is better than none, provided they spell the name right. This politicians’ c.p. dates from the
mid-1930s: the UK and the Commonwealth. (A reminder, 1978, from my old Australian friend Archie—A.E.,— Pearse.)
anyone for tennis?
See: tennis, anyone?
anyone here seen Kelly?
See: has anybody here…
anyone who goes to a psychoanalyst…
See: you need your head examined.
[anyone who hates children and (small) dogs can’t be all bad is a cultured and literate American c.p., sometimes wrongly
attributed to W.C.Fields (1879–1946). It formed part of a short ad-libbed speech made by Leo Rosten at a Masquers’ Club
banquet held, in Hollywood, on 17 Feb. 1939, in honour of Fields’s 25th year in show business. It remains a famous quot’n; it
has not quite become a c.p.]
anyone’s bet—it’s or that’s. ‘Who can say?’ or ‘Nobody can say for certain’; since early 1970s.
See: bring anything; can you do; don’t do a.; he’d fuck a.; I’ll try; if you want; never does; they can make.
[anything for a laugh, often prec. by he’ll or he’d do, is applied lit. and then is a cliché; but when the implication is that he’ll
go too far to achieve that laudable purpose when laughter is inappropriate, it tends to be regarded as a c.p.: since c. 1945.
anything for a quiet wife is a c.p. var—less vaguely, ‘a jocular perversion’ (Petch)—of anything for a quiet life, itself a
proverbial saying; the former dates from c. 1968; the latter prob. from late C17 (see ODEP). Cf deft and dumb.
anything goes! Anything is permissible; ‘do exactly as you please’: dates from c. 1930 in the US and was popularised, 1934,
by a Cole Porter song and a musical comedy so titled; the c.p. soon reached the UK. (Wedgewood, 1977.) In short, that
American musical comedy (which is still revived) adopted its title from an already existing c.p., as J.W.C. has pointed out: a
splendid example of the fact that certain titles of plays, films and songs have not originated but merely reinforced, rendered
still more popular, phrases already firmly, or perhaps not very firmly, established.
Cf Miss Otis regrets. anything I (really) like…
See: anything you like… anything like that you can enjoy! In his delightful and kindly autobiography, Shop Boy, written c. 1922 but not pub’d until 1983, John Birch Thomas remembers London’s old Crystal Palace in the early 1880s: ‘Only the centre part was illuminated. The side courts where the statues were seemed quite dark, but they were the most crowded… Many couples were sitting in dark corners, and passers-by made remarks to tease them. “I’ll tell your Mother, Maudie,” and “Anything like that you can enjoy,” but nobody took offence. Everybody was enjoying themselves and all was jolly.’ Thomas’s memory was remarkably vivid in its detail, and these phrases have the true ring of ephemeral c.pp. (P.B.)
anything! so help me! God help me!: orig. euph. and almost proletarian: c. 1918–39. Manchon. anything that can go wrong will go wrong. ‘This c.p. is known as Murphy’s law’ (B.P., 1975). It is known in UK and Aus. as well as in US, where it prob. started, c. 1950, in the form if anything can go wrong, it will. In UK it has, since c. 1970, been known less politely as Sod’s law, q.v. Orig. scientist-engineer jargon, but becoming gen. with the post-Sputnik awareness of science. I suspect that Murphy is the archetypal (and stereotyped) Irish immigrant under whose ministrations things were guaranteed to go wrong. Murphy’s law is, of course, merely a scientific formulation of a much earlier recognised aspect of human affairs, the Buttered Side Principle, first set down by James Payn (1830–98) who, in 1884, wrote:
I never had a piece of toast
Particularly long and wide
But fell upon the sandy floor
And always on the buttered side.
P.B: Payn was merely, and rather simplifyingly, echoing Tom Hood the Younger (1834–74), who had earlier parodied the famous quatrain beginning ‘I never nursed a dear gazelle’, in Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, 1817. Hood’s version ran:
‘I never nursed a dear gazelle,
To glad me with its dappled hide,
But when it came to know me well
It fell upon its buttered side.’
Much has now been written, seriously and in fun, about Murphy and his law. The even more pessimistic, like myself, often
add the corollary and if it can’t go wrong, it might. Those interested in further treatment of the subject are referred to Paul
Dickson, The Official Rules, 1978 (US), 1980 (UK), an excellent compendium of related material, and a pregnant source of
many a potential c.p.
anything you like is (either) illegal, immoral, or fattening ‘“Sorry, Chum, nothing. Not allowed.”—“Always the same.
Anything you like is illegal, immoral or fattening,” he giggled, “That’s a chestnut for you.” Brand sighed. “I’ve heard it—
often.”’ Thus Margaret Hinxman in a novel pub’d in 1977. It goes back, I think, to c. 1940, although I don’t recall having
heard it until c. 1960. ‘I have heard it, and variants, and used it, for, I suppose, 20–25 years’ (Peter Cochrane, 1977).
It derives from Alexander Woollcott (1887–1943), who, in The Knock at the Stage Door, wrote: ‘All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening.’ (Yehuda Mindel, 1977.) The altered form is Brit, and it did not truly ‘catch on’ in UK until the late 1940s or very early 1950s. Woollcott’s orig. appeared in Readers’ Digest, Dec. 1933. It is, however, worth noting, as J.W.C. points out, 1977, that in the US the c.p. form is always everything (I like)… anyway, it’s winning the war.
See: it’s winning… anywhere.
See: we’re not going. anywhere down there! A c.p. uttered by tailors when something is dropped on the floor: c. 1860–1910. [apa changkul dua malam. ‘An example of “mangled Malay” from the 1950s. Literally the whole was meant to translate “What-ho to-night?” Intelligence Corps people during the Malayan Emergency (late 1940s—early 1950s)’ (P.B., 1975). The spelling changkul is as amended by Anthony Burgess, in TLS, 26 Aug. 1977. Cf satu empat jalan.] apologise.
See: never explain. appeal.
See: let’s appeal; no heart. applaud.
See: don’t applaud. apple.
See: you haven’t got; you’ve picked. Appleby.
See: how lies. apples.
See: how do you like; how we. apples—it’s or she’s; or she’ll be apples. [P.B.: occ., more fully: she’ll be right, mate—she’ll be apples.] ‘Everything is, or will be, all right’; ‘it will prosper or succeed’: Aus.: since c. 1950. The form she’ll be apples was noted in a witty review by Philip Howard in The Times, 24 Mar. 1977, of the late Grahame Johnston’s Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Australian English. [P.B.: this form was current among Australian Servicemen a decade earlier.] Cf she’ll be jake, q.v. It’s just poss. that the phrase was prompted by the archaic how we apples swim, q.v. But G.A.Wilkes, Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms, 1978, prefers everything’s apples, with earliest printed ref. in 1952, and an orig. either in apple-pie order or in rhyming slang apples and spice, nice—Aus., the Brit, being apples and rice. apples a pound pears derides barrow boys, who often use strange or even nonsensical cries, deemed by some customers to be misleading: since c. 1925. Although L.A., 1976, declared that, since c. 1945, the phrase has been no more than a ‘Cockney street-market fruit-stall jocular shout’, and although another correspondent declared it to be ‘plain daft’, yet it should be noted
that this c.p. may have been influenced by the famous Cockney rhyming-slang apples and pears (stairs): see that entry in
Julian Franklyn’s dependable and entertaining Rhyming Slang.
See: no Irish.
See: couldn’t see.
appray (or appree) la guerre, often written gare; après la guerre. ‘Sometime-or perhaps never’; or, simply, ‘never’; a
British army, esp. a Tommy, c.p. of 1915–18. Often appray la garefinee, being the Fr. après la guerre finie, after the end of
the war. ‘A hopeless soldier would often be heard to say, for instance: “When shall I see my happy home again?” or “When
shall I get my back pay? Appree la Gare”—i.e., Never’ (F & G). ‘Après la guerre carried two connotations for the soldier: It
was used jokingly for the indefinite and remote future, e.g. “When will you marry me?—oh, après la guerre”…. And,
secondly, the phrase was a depository of secret sentiment. The two usages are clearly seen in the ribald ditty composed by
some unknown warrior—“Après la guerre finie” [sung to the tune of ‘Sous les ponts de Paris’]’ (B & P, who failed to note the
third connotation: ‘Never’).
See: I apprehend.
[après nous le déluge, both a UK and a US contender during C20 among the educated for the status of c.p., is reputed to have
been said in 1757, by Jeanne, Marquise de Pompadour, to Frederick the Great, as the invaluable ‘Bartlett’ tells us, means
‘after us the flood’ and connotes ‘What do we care what happens after we die?’ but—perhaps more often in US than in UK—
it has sometimes been changed to apres moi…, ‘What do I care?’ (Proposed by John T.Fain.) P.B. : but in later C20 has it not
rather the sense ‘We are (or may well be) the last generation to enjoy civilisation as we know it—how appallingly sad!’]
See: he’s had; weaving.
See: it’s awfully.
See: ONE WORD.
Archer up! He—or it—is certain to win: a London c.p. of 1881–6. From the very famous, very great, jockey, Fred Archer,
who, having achieved fame in 1881, died in 1886. Another ‘jockey’ c.p. is come on, Steve!
Archibald, certainly not! A c.p. satirizing a prim and prudish feminine refusal of sexual intimacy: c. 1911–20 for its heyday;
by 1940, virtually †. From the title and refrain of a music-hall song written by John L. St John—a well-known song-writer
usu. known as Lee St John; the song owed most of its popularity to George Robey. The c.p. was noted by Collinson.
P.B.: there is a possible connection between this c.p. and the WW1 slang archie=anti-aircraft gunfire: see Archibald in DSUE. are there any more at home like you? A C20 c.p. addressed to a (very) pretty girl; by 1940, ob.; by 1970, †—except among those with long memories. From the very popular musical comedy Floradora, which, performed first in 1900, contained the song, ‘Tell me, pretty maiden, are there any more at home like you?’ are we downhearted? Political in origin (c. 1906) it did not achieve the status of a true c.p. until WW1 and was not, I believe, at all—if at all—gen. before late 1915. In B & P, John Brophy, at p. 194, wrote:
Are we downhearted? No!
soon became the vehement-
Are we downhearted?—Yes!
But this was intended as humorous comment. Sometimes it would be expanded, and declaimed by alternate voices, thus:
Are we downhearted?
Then you damn (or bloody) soon will be!
are we is or are we ain’t? See is you is or is you ain’t?
are yer courtin’? ‘One of the questions Wilfred Pickles would use nudgingly in his long-running radio quiz Have A Go,
chatting up spinster contestants of any age from nineteen to ninety’ (VIBS). In his broadest Yorkshire accent, of course.
are yew werkin’? is a Liverpool c.p. of ‘the hungry Twenties and in frequent use until c. 1940—and in occ. use for some ten
years longer’. (Shaw, 1968.)
are you a man or a mouse? Orig. and predominantly US, Berrey glossing it thus: ‘disparagingly of a timorous person’.
Adopted in England c. 1945 and there used joc., esp. by female to male. ‘Catch phrases tend to breed ripostes, which in their
turn breed others, and it is hard to know where to stop. Thus are you a man or [a] mouse? is regularly followed by a mouse:
my wife’s frightened of mice’ (Anthony Burgess, in TLS, 26 Aug. 1977). P.B.: equally common, among the honest, is the
frank riposte squeak, squeak!
are you anywhere? Do you possess-or have on you-any drugs? A US Negroes’ c.p., since c. 1950. CM.
are you asking me or (are you) telling me?, with to do something understood. A well-mannered reproof to someone who,
without justification, expects something to be done; ‘Are you ordering me or asking with a please?’ I first heard it during the
1920s, but surmise that it goes back to more courteous Edwardian days.
are you casting nasturtiums? Are you making aspersions?: joc., deliberate malapropism: mostly lower-middle class: C20;
by 1965, ob. (P.B., 1976.) Cf answer is in the infirmary.
are you financial? Have you enough-or plenty of-money readily available?: Aus.: since mid-1940s. (Camilla Raab, 1977.)
[are you for real?, like it’s for real, not catch, but ordinary colloquial, phrases.]
are you getting too proud to speak to anyone now?—with are often omitted—is addressed to one who has failed to notice
the speaker when passing: C20.
are you going to walk about, or pay for a room? is ‘an impatient whore’s question after a client has dithered too long’ (a
correspondent, in 1969): C20.
are you happy in the Service? and are you happy in your work?
See: happy in the Service?
are you in my way? is ‘a c.p. reminder of egotistical obliviousness’ (L.A.): since c. 1925. Also US; Berrey solemnly explains
it as ‘am I in your way?’, although R.C., 1978, writes ‘never very common in US, and certainly ob., if not extinct, today.’
P.B. glosses it somewhat differently: ‘Jocular phrase used as “Excuse me, may I come (or reach) past you” or to forestall
another’s having to ask one to make room.’
are you is or are you ain’t? A var. of is y ou is or is you ain’t?
are you keeping it for the worms? A Can. c.p., dating from c. 1940, and addressed to a female rejecting sexual advances. (Here,
‘it’ is the hymen.) Accidentally reminiscent of Shakespeare’s famous attack on the value of virginity as such. E.P. later noted:
The Shakespeare influence is valid, but Prof. D.J.Enright, in Encounter, Dec. 1977, is, of course, right in attributing the more
immediate, more pertinent, source to Andrew Marvell (1621–78) in To His Coy Mistress, thus: ‘Much more reminiscent of
Marvell’s playful play, “Worms shall try/That long preserved Virginity”.’
are you kidding? Are you joking? But also an ironically derisive exclam.=Surely you’re not serious? Dating since c. 1945, it
was prob. suggested by the US c.p., no kidding? and in its turn, it prob. occasioned the Brit, you must be joking!
In Act I, Scene i, of Terence Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme, both performed and pub’d in 1958:
RON: You’ll get a good settlement, I hope. [On remarrying.]
ROSE: Are you kidding? I’m settling for half the Ruhr.
P.B., 1982: in 1976 I mentioned to E.P. that there had been, in the Army at least, and since c. 1960, the dovetail retort no, it’s
just the way me (or my) coat hangs. Only recently I have heard the American var. …sweater hangs.
are you looking at me? ‘It’s no good looking at me like that—I’m not the culprit, or I didn’t do it, or I am not going to offer
to do it.’ One of those domestic or semi-domestic phrases it’s impossible to date with any accuracy: prob. since late C19; my
own memory of it doesn’t precede 1910.
are you nervous in the Service? During WW2, this formed the US version of the Brit, are you happy in the Service?
are you pulling the right string? Are you going the right way about it? or, occ., are you correct? A cabinet-makers’ c.p.,
dating from 1863, says Ware; apparently † by 1940. Ware derives it from small measurements made with the aid of lengths of
string, but, as B.G.T. pertinently remarks: ‘Could not this refer to marionettes? One hardly “pulls” string to make
measurements’—which of course makes Ware’s supposition incongruous. And R.C., 1977, adds ‘I propose that it is at least
suggested by the concept of “pulling (political) strings”.’
are you sitting comfortably? (Then I’ll begin) comes ‘from the children’s radio programme, “Listen with Mother”’, and on
5 Sep. 1977 was noted, as omission from the 1st ed. of this Dictionary, by Dr Robert Burchfield, CBE, in the BBC
programme ‘Kaleidoscope’. These words formed the constant introductory line; the series began in Jan. 1950. A c.p. of the
1950s–60s. [P.B.: still heard in the early 1980s.] (With the kind permission of the BBC, via Rosemary Hart, the producer of
‘Kaleidoscope’.) ‘Julia Lang is credited with introducing the phrase’ (VIBS).
are you talking to me or chewing a brick? (With are you often omitted). ‘One of the long list of questions or remarks
imputing idiocy in the person addressed’ (Brian W.Aldiss, 1978): since c. 1950.
are you there with your bears? There you are again!—esp. with a connotation of ‘so soon’: c. 1570–1840. It occurs in Lyly,
1592—James Howel, 1642—Richardson (the novelist), 1740— Scott, 1820. (Apperson.) From the itinerant bear-leaders’
regular visits to certain districts.
are you trying to tell me something? ‘Modern US, probably UK now, though not widely: response to a less than clear hint’
(Wedgewood, 1977). In the US not, so far as I have noticed, before c. 1955. In UK, yes: since c. 1965, but whether as
emergent cliché or as a potential c.p., I should not yet (1977) care to say.
are you up? is a US journalistic c.p., meaning ‘are you free of the work you were doing?’ (Berrey, 1942). Perhaps throughout
C20; but prob., since c. 1950, no more than a journalistic colloquialism.
are you winning? ‘A rhetorical greeting: since c. 1960’ (P.B., 1975). It has another connotation, that of ‘another way of
saying something when there is nothing to say’ (an anon, correspondent, 1978, who dates it back a decade earlier). Prob.
prompted by we’re winning, q.v.
are you with me? Do you understand? Its var. are you with me still? implies ‘Do you still follow me or the argument?’ Since
c. 1920. (Prof. James R.Sutherland, 1977.) P.B.: in later C20 often shortened to with me?; the person following the argument
may interject with you!, to show that he does.
are your boots laced? Do you understand what I’m saying or what I’m talking about?: US Negroes’. Eric Townley, 1978,
draws attention to ‘Get Your Books Laced, Papa’, a title recorded on 18 Apr. 1940 by Woody Herman and his orchestra. In
his valuable Tell Your Story: A Dictionary of Jazz and Blues Recordings, 1917–50, 1976, E.T. explains the title of the record
as ‘Become aware and informed of the latest trends; get knowledgeable and up-to-date about the situation.’
are your hands clean? (Pause.) Would you mind turning my balls over? ‘A low expression used among [the numerous]
workingmen who think that they are not “men” if they can use a dozen words without including some filth’ (Petch, 1969):
since c. 1920.
aren’t we all?—often prec. by but. But surely we’re all alike in that? Since c. 1918 or perhaps ten or even twenty years
earlier. In Frederick Lonsdale’s comedy, Aren’t We All, 1924, occurs this passage:
VICAR: Grenham, you called me a bloody old fool. LORD GRENHAM: But aren’t we all, old friend?
Berrey, in 1942, records it as US-which it had become by adoption. J.W.C. noted, 1977, after the appearance of this Dictionary’s 1st ed.: ‘“Don’t we all?” is widely current in US, perhaps specially applied to copulation. Also widely used is “Doesn’t everyone?”—almost always applied to a very rich woman saying, e.g., “Of course we have two yachts”.’ The Brit, and US versions are contemporaneous.
P.B.: One of Britain’s best known newspaper strip-cartoon characters of the mid-C20 appeared in the Daily Mirror, c. 1938–51; created by Bernard Graddon, he was Captain A.R.P. Reilly-Ffoull, of Arntwee Hall, Much Cackling, Gertshire. (The A.R.P. is a pun too: it stood ‘in real life’ for Air Raid Precautions, hence, those who organised, supervised, and effected these precautions.) aren’t you the one! expresses admiration whether complete or quizzical or rueful: US: since c. 1942; not much used since c. 1972. (Mr Ben Grauer, in conversation, 1973.) It is a counterpart of the Brit, you are a one! P.B.: but aren’t you the one! also,
e.g. isn’t she the one! have had some use in UK, later C20. Often suffixed by then!, when nuance is quizzical or rueful.
arf a mo, Kaiser!
See: ’alf a mo…
See: don’t argue.
See: happy as ducks.
’ark at ’er!
See: hark at her!
See: bit tight; chance your a.; flings; having a good; hit . me now; I have a bone; I’ll first; I’ll pull; I’ll tear; it’s what;
shoot it; throws his; you could twist.
arm and a leg—an. This US c.p. occurs in two forms: they charge you—or you’ve got to pay—an arm and a leg: ‘The price
is exorbitant’: ‘general US for at least 30 years, though by now somewhat hackneyed’ (R.C., 1978). The Brit, equivalents, it
costs the earth or they charge (you) the earth are not c.pp. but ordinary hyperboles. P.B.: I first heard it costs an arm and a leg
from Miss Stella Keenan in 1975 soon after her return to UK from US; that the phrase has become at least partially anglicised
is shown by an allusive cartoon on the cover of Time Out, in the Spring of 1982, showing a would-be traveller on the London
Underground, where the fares had just been raised enormously, offering his sawn-off arm and leg at the ticket window; and
the Poppy Day Appeal poster for 1983 showed two maimed ex-Servicemen, one without an arm, the other with only one leg.
Cf if it takes a leg, the prob. orig.
See: clever chaps; remember the starving.
See: it’s a way; it’s an old a.; join the a.; thank God; there’s the right; they can make; they tame; you, and who;
your mother wears.
See: if you call.
army left! and army, right! is an army drill instructors’ c.p. addressed to a recruit turning, or wheeling, in the wrong
direction and dating, I think, since WW1. PGR.
around the world for a zack, an Aus. c.p. dating since c. 1950, is applied to any cheap and potent wine. A zack is the old
sixpence, the new 5 cents. Jim Ramsay, Cop It Sweet, 1977.
See: I’ve arrived.
See: close as God’s; couldn’t hit; cover your ass; ‘dab!’; doesn’t know; don’t get your a.; don’t let your mouth;
don’t tear the; flies; for a musical; get your ass; give your arse; hasn’t got a ha’penny; here’s me; I don’t let; if I stick;
in a pig’s; it fits him; it’s a poor a.; it’s bad manners; kiss my a.; lend his; lights; living on the bone; lose his a.; more arse;
much use as my; my arse; my ears; no heart; scratch his; shake the lead; she had; she walks; so is my; thimble; thinks the sun;
tight as; took his; up a; wet arse; why don’t you just; yes, my a.; you can ax; you can smell;
you couldn’t see; you want to know; you’d forget; you’re full; your arse; your ass.
See: buggered about; doesn’t know; eh? to me; from arse hole; telegram; your ass-hole; and:
arsehole of the world, and Shaiba’s halfway up it—(you know the old saying,) the Persian Gulf’s the. This, an Army and
RAF depreciatory c.p., dates from the early 1920s. ‘At Shaiba—properly Sha’aiba—there was for many years, a transit camp’
(L.A.). [P.B.: say, approx. 1920–55. The RAF also commemorated the appalling place with a dirge, still current among older
airmen in the 1950s, Those Shaiba Blues’.]
But this unwelcome distinction has, since the middle 1920s, been claimed by the RAF for such other unpopular, hell-hole, stations as Aden, Basra, Freetown, and Suez. Australians often refer to a place as the arsehole of the world if they think it to be inferior in, e.g., climate or amenities to their own city or town.
P.B.: a later refinement of this topographical denigration is the allusive if the world had to have an enema, (e.g. Aden)’s the place they’d shove it (or grammatical variants of the same). art.
See: I don’t know much. art mistress.
See: as the actress. art of gunnery.
See: attitude. art thou there (? or !). Oh! so the penny has dropped—you understand at last—you’ve tumbled to it: c. 1660–1730. Thomas Shadwell, The Scowrers, Act III, opening scene:
CLAR[A]: Oh, Sister, the Sight of this Man has ruin’d me: I never shall recover it. EUG[ENIA]: Ah! Art thou there, ’faith, recover it! Why, who would put a Stop to Love? Give Reins to it, and let it run away with thee.
Arthur or Martha.
See: I don’t know whether…
See: that’s the a.
article one, paragraph one. In the RN, ‘A reply to any complaint’ (John Laffin, Jack Tar, 1969): C20. There is no such
as…as… The similes formed on this pattern are to be found under the relevant adj., e.g. good a scholar as my horse Ball,
etc., or at much…as…, e.g. much chance as….
[as ever is is not a c.p., but a cliché tag connoting emphasis, as in ‘this next winter as ever is’ (Edward Lear, c. 1873).]
as I am a gentleman and a soldier belongs apparently to the approx. period 1570–1640, is an asseveration or occ. a
remonstration, and for its meaning should be compared with the C19–20 stock phrase, yet hardly a c.p., an officer and a
gentleman. Ben Jonson, in his Every Man in His Humour, staged in 1598 and pub’d in 1601, has Cob the water-bearer say of
Captain Bobadil: ‘O, I have a guest [a lodger]—he teaches me—he swears the legiblest of any man christened: “By St
George!—the foot of Pharaoh!—the body of me!—as I am gentleman and a soldier!”—such dainty oaths’ (I, iii). At I, iv,
Bobadil himself says, ‘I protest to you, as I am a gentleman and a soldier, I ne’er changed words with his like.’
The shortened form, as I am a gentleman, occurs frequently in the comedies of c. 1580–1640, e.g. John Fletcher’s The
Pilgrim, IV, ii, where Pedro exclaims: Murdering a man, ye Rascals? Ye inhumane slaves, off, off, and leave this cruelty, Or as I am a Gentleman: do ye brave me? Beaumont and Fletcher, Love’s Cure, written not later than 1616, in III, ii, has:
BOB: You’ll come. Sir?
PIO: As I am a Gentleman.
BOB: A man o’ the Sword should never break his word.
Cf you are a gentleman… as I am a person. This c.p. of emphasis, apparently current c. 1660–1750, comes, for instance, in Congreve’s The Way of the World, staged and pub’d in 1700, at IV, ii, where Lady Wishfort says: ‘Well, Sir Rowland, you have the way—you are no novice in the labyrinth of love-you have the clue. But, as I am a person. Sir Rowland, you must not attribute my yielding to any sinister appetite, or indigestion of widowhood….’ Later (V, ii) she declares, ‘As I am a person ’tis true;—she was never suffered to play with a male child, though but in coats; nay, her very babies [i.e. dolls] were of the feminine gender.’ Cf as I live, and: as I am a sinner—and I certainly am! This asseveration dates c. 1650–1750. SOD cites, for 1682, ‘As I am sinner, my eager stomach crokes and calls for Dinner’. (Thanks to Simon Levene.) as I am honest (i.e. honourable) and truly as I live are c.pp. of asseveration, reassurance, or mere emphasis: late C16–17. In Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Chances (prob. by Fletcher alone), written not later than 1625 and pub’d in 1639, at II, ii, John, a lusty young Spanish gentleman designing to pay ardent court to a lovely woman, says woefully:
Now may I hang myself; this commendation
Has broke the neck of all my hopes: for now
Must I cry, no forsooth, and I [i.e. ay] forsooth, and surely.
And truly as I live, and as I am honest. He
Has done these things for ‘nonce too; for he knows
Like a most envious Rascal as he is,
I am not honest, nor desire to be,
Especially this way.
The latter phrase elaborates truly, honestly, certainly, and connotes ‘as certain as the fact that I am alive’. Cf as I am a gentleman. as I have breath and as I have life. The former, a var. of as I live and breathe, is more often as I’ve breath; it occurs in Mark Lemon’s Hearts Are Trumps, performed and pub’d in 1849, thus at I, ii:
GOAD: One morning a silver spoon was missing, and the next day you were ditto. JOE: But I didn’t steal it! As I’ve breath, I didn’t, master!
The latter, also a var. of as I live, occurs in R.B.Sheridan’s The Duenna, staged and pub’d in 1775: ISAAC: Good lack, with what eyes a father sees! As I have life, she is the very reverse of all this.
And again in Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, performed in 1777, pub’d 1779, at V, iii.
‘Perhaps,’ as A.B. suggests, 1978, ‘picked up in the US from the motto of the State of South Carolina: Dum spiro, spero, “While I breathe, I hope”.’ South Carolina ratified the Federal Union in 1788. as I hope to be saved is a c.p. of (orig., solemn) asseveration: c. 1650–1850; and then it gradually lost currency until, by 1920 at latest, it had entirely disappeared. In The Sullen Lovers, staged and pub’d in 1668, Thomas Shadwell writes in II, iii:
NINNY: But I’ll tell you; there are not above ten or twelve thousand lines in all the poems; and, as I hope to be saved, I asked him but twelve pence a line, one line with another.
Sly, in Act IV of Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift (or, as a Frenchman gleefully translated it, La Dernière chemise de l’amour), performed in 1694 and pub’d the next year, says: ‘Bless me! O Lord! Dear Madam, I beg your pardon: as I hope to be sav’d, Madam, ’tis a mistake: I took him for Mr-.’
In 1720, Charles Shadwell (son of Thomas) uses it in The Plotting Lovers; or The Dismal Squire: Samuel Foote’s The Minor, 1760, in Act I, in the scene between Sir William Wealthy and Samuel Shift, the latter says: Would you believe it, as I hope to be saved, we dined, supped, and wetted five-and-thirty guineas…in order to settle the
terms; and, after all, the scoundrel would not lend us a stiver. It can also be found in Foote’s The Maid of Bath, 1778, and Thomas Shadwell uses it again in The Woman Captain, 1680. In 1816, in Samuel James Arnold’s Free and Easy. A Musical Farce, I, ii, Mr and Mrs Courtly discuss an unexpected and
COU: Did you ever see such an original?
MRS C: Very amusing, indeed!
COU: Vastly pleasant!
MRS C: Familiar—free and easy.
COU: And d-d disagreeable, as I hope to be saved.
There are variants, dating from Chaucer and even earlier; but this particular form is the only one to have become a c.p.—and
it probably arose among pious Nonconformists.
as I hope to live likewise asseverates, during the very approximate period 1650–1820. Thomas Shadwell, The Sullen Lovers,
1668, at III, i, has: ‘Not I, sir, as I hope to live.’
In 1784, in Hannah Cowley’s A Bold Stroke for a Husband, at II, ii, Don Caesar exclaims: ‘Beginning! as I hope to live; aye I see ’tis in vain.’
In George Colman the Younger’s Ways and Means; or a Trip to Dover, 1788, the whimsical Sir David Dunder, apropos of a man cramped into the corner of a coach, exclaims: ‘Took him for dead, as I hope to live.’ as I live and breathe—rarely if—often shortened to as I live, which, however, sometimes appears to be the more emphatic form. Indicating confidence or assurance, it arose, very approx., c. 1645. Of the numerous examples, these will perhaps serve:
Thomas Killigrew, The Parson’s Wedding, 1664, II, i at end. Lady Love-all, ‘an old Stallion Hunting Widow’, being ardently pressed by the lively Mr Jolly, exclaims: ‘Hang me, I’ll call aloud; why, Nan! you may force me; But, as I live, I’ll do nothing’—yet does.
In Thomas Shadwell’s Epsom Wells, performed in Dec. 1672 and pub’d in 1673, at IV, i (lines 210–12 of D.M. Walmsley’s edn), Mrs Jilt soliloquizes thus: ‘Miserable Woman, how unlucky am I? but I am resolv’d never to give over ’till I get a Husband, if I live and breath [sic].’ Cf also IV, i (lines 651–62), Fribble speaking: ‘Oh monstrous impudence! the Woman’s possess’d, as I hope to breathe.’
John Crowne, in Act II of The Country Wit, performed in 1675, pub’d 1693, makes Ramble exclaim: ‘Oh dull rogue that I am! I have staid till she’s gone: gone as I live!’
In Colley Cibber’s Woman’s Wit; or, The Lady in Fashion, 1697, in the first scene of Act V, Leonora exclaims: ‘Ha! muffled in a cloak! O! for a glimpse of him!—My Lord Livermore, as I live!’
In William Burnaby’s Love Betray’d (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night), performed and pub’d in 1703, I, i (p. 354, lines 6–7 of F.E.Budd’s edn of Burnaby’s plays), Emilia exclaims to Villaretta: ‘Cousin Frances drunk, as I live!’
Arthur Murphy, The Apprentice, 1756, at II, i: Charlotte speaks: ‘Dear Heart, don’t let us stand fooling here; as I live and breathe, we shall both be taken, for heaven’s sake, let us make our escape.’
Samuel Foote, The Author, 1757, Act I, Sprightly to Cape: ‘Cape, to your post; here they are, i’ faith, a coachful! Mr and Mrs Cadwallader, and your flame, the sister, as I live!’
In George Colman’s The Deuce Is In Him, 1763, in II, i, Tamper exclaims: ‘Belford’s Belleisle lady, as I live!’ where as I live=well, I’m damned!
George Colman and David Garrick, The Clandestine Marriage, 1766, III, i (‘Scene Changes to another Apartment’); Miss Sterling remarks: ‘As I live, Madam, yonder comes Sir John.’ Garrick employs it twice in another play of the same year, Neck or Nothing. George Colman uses as I live again in The English Merchant, 1767, Act V.
In 1784, John O’Keeffe, The Young Master, employs it very effectually in IV, i.
In 1787, Elizabeth Inchbald, The Midnight Hour (a translation from the Fr.), has the shorter form.
In 1792, Thomas Holcroft, The Road to Ruin, at III, i. also has the shorter form.
Arthur Murphy, The Way to Keep Him, 1794, III, i:
MRS BELL[MOUR]: I really think you would make an admir
able Vauxhall poet. LOVE[MORE]: Nay, now you flatter me. MRS BELL: No, as I live, it is very pretty.
Frederick Reynolds, an extremely popular light dramatist, in The Delinquent; or, Seeing Company, 1805, has Old Doric soliloquize thus: ‘I’m safe at home at last—[Looking round] and, as I live-our villa is a pretty partnership concern-so snug-so tasty!’
In J.V.Millingen’s The Bee-Hive: A Musical Farce, 1811, at I, ii, Cicely exclaims: ‘As I live, the very uniform!’
W.C.Oulton, The Sleep-Walker; or, Which Is the Lady? A Farce, 1812, in I, i, causes Squire Rattlepate to burble, ‘As I live, here is Mr Jorum, the landlord of the George.’
In 1820, Theodore Hook, in his very popular comedy, Exchange No Robbery, employs the shorter form, which had, by 1790 at latest, become the predominant form.
In 1829, George Colman the Younger uses it in X.Y.Z.: A Farce, at II, i; in 1830, both J.B.Buckstone, Snakes in the Grass, another farce, at I, i, and Caroline Boaden, The First of April; A Farce, at I, iii, also use it; all three, in the short form.
In 1845, to go to a novelist for a change, R.S.Surtees, Hillingdon Hall; or The Cockney Squire, beginning chapter III with the heading:
‘Ecce iterum Crispinus,’
Here’s old Jorrocks again, as we live!—Free Translation.
A late example occurs in Thomas Morton the Elder, ‘Methinks I See My Father!’ or, ‘Who’s My Father?’,? 1850, I, i, ‘Why, as I live, here he comes.’ The phrase had always occurred frequently in connection with someone’s arrival on the scene.
The phase, even in its shorter form, began to become slightly ob. c. 1900; yet it is extant; it appears as late as in Terence Rattigan’s comedy, French without Tears, performed on 6 Nov. 1936 and pub’d in 1937. In Act I:
(Enter Marianne, the maid, with a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, placing them in front of Brian.)
BRIAN: Ah, mes œufs, as I live.
I find it again, this time in Anglo-Irish, in Peter Driscoll, In Connection with Kilshaw, 1974: ‘“Kilshaw’s handwriting? Are you sure?”—“As I live, Harry.”’
And the full phrase appears in May Mackintosh, The Double Dealers, 1975, ‘“You’re in love with him!” he said accusingly. “As I live and breathe, love at first sight, no less.”’
Moreover, as I live and breathe had US currency from I don’t know when until at least 1942, when it was recorded by Berrey. as I live by bread exemplifies how very easy it is to ‘slip up’ with c.pp.: I had some record of it and then mislaid it! But, if I remember correctly, it belongs to mid C17—mid 18. It may have been prompted by the long-† oath, God’s bread, lit. the sacramental bread. as I roved out.
See: it’s ‘as I roved…’ as I used to was is a joc. var. of ‘as I used to be’: C20; by 1950, ob., and by 1970, †. Somerset Maugham, Cakes and Ale, 1930, ‘“I’m not so young as I used to was.”’
P.B.: still, c. 1980, heard occ. in the parody, The old grey mare ain’t what she used to was’. as if I cared! ‘Sam Fairfechan (played by Hugh Morton) in ITMA. He would say [in a strong Welsh accent], “Good morning, how are you today?” and immediately follow with “As if I cared”’ (VIBS). See TOMMY HANDLEY. as if I’m ever likely to forget the bloody place!—the place being Belgium. Remember Belgium!, orig. a recruiting slogan-become-c.p., ‘was heard with ironic and bitter intonations in the muddy wastes of the Salient. And some literal-minded, painstaking individual, anxious that the point be rubbed well in, would be sure to add: “As if I’m ever likely to forget the bloody place!”’ (John Brophy at p. 194 of the first edn  of B & P, reprinted, after a generation, as The Long Trail). as long as I can buy milk…
See: why buy a book… as Moss caught his mare napping: c. 1500–1870; in mid C18—early 19, often Morse; in C19, mainly dial. Refers to catching someone asleep, hence by surprise. ‘The allusions to this saying and song in C16–17 are very numerous,’ says G.L.Apperson in his pioneering and excellent book. Moss— ? a mythical farmer—appears to have caught his elusive mare by feeding her through a hurdle, as in a cited quot’n dated 1597. as much chance…
See: much chance… as the actress said to the bishop—and vice versa. An innuendo scabrously added to an entirely innocent remark, as in ‘It’s too stiff for me to manage it-as the actress said to the bishop’ or, conversely, ‘I can’t see what I’m doing—as the bishop said to the actress’. Certainly in RAF use c. 1944–7, but prob. going back to Edwardian days; only very slightly ob. by 1975, it is likely to outlive most of us.
A good example occurs in John Osborne’s A Sense of Detachment, prod, on 3 Dec. 1972 and pub’d 1973, in Act I: INTERRUPTER: You’re trying to have it all ways, aren’t you? GIRL: As the actress said to the bishop.
Another excellent example occurs in Len Deighton’s remarkable WW2 novel Bomber, 1970: ‘He worked out the position of the short circuit on paper, but it was enough to make a strong man weep, watching him
trying to fix it: gentleman’s fingers.’ ‘As the actress said to the bishop,’ said Digby. Another in Martin Russell’s novel, Double Hit, 1973: Alongside a turntable in an alcove stood an open record-case… The player was a stereo job in moulded mahogany… ‘Admiring my equipment?’ Adrian re-emerged with a sandwich on a plate. ‘As the actress said to the bishop. You get a terrific
tone…at least, so the man assured me as he installed it all: I’ve never yet managed to do exactly what he did, as the bishop said to the actress.’ ‘As the bishop said to the actress=Not having jokes of its own, spoken English turns ordinary statements into jokes by adding this phrase afterwards’ (Punch, 10 Oct. 1973). (Cf bit of how’s-your-father.)
Either form tends to attract the other to cap it. P.B.: it may even be reduced to as the A said to the B. Nigel Rees, in VIBS, notes the var. as the art mistress said to the gardener, and comments ‘this originated during Beryl Reid’s stint as Monica in Educating Archie [BBC radio comedy series, late 1940s]. (I have always used it in preference to the original.)’ Cf the next, and as the Windmill girl said… as the girl said to the sailor (less often the soldier)—and vice versa. An end-c.p., to soften a double, esp. if sexual, meaning: like the prec. phrase, it seems to have arisen in Edwardian times. Based-or so I’ve been told-upon a prototype about someone coming into money. Cf the C20 as the monkey said, a tag to a smoking-room story. Example: ‘“We didn’t come here just to look at the scenery,” as the soldier said to the girl in the park.’ Cf what the soldier said…, and that’s gone… as the Governor of North Carolina said to the Governor of South Carolina: it’s a long time between drinks; either part is often used separately, the former allusively and with a significant pause, the latter either lit. or fig.: a famous quot’n that, c. 1880, became a c.p., almost entirely US, although known to—and used by—Americanophiles since c. 1920—witness, e.g., Alec Waugh, So Lovers Dream, 1931:
‘I suppose we’ve all got a barmaid side to us,’ said Gordon [an Englishman].
‘I know I’ve got a barman side to me,’ said Gregory [an American].
‘As the Governor of North Carolina said to the Governor of South Carolina,’ said Francis [another American].
In the inestimable, rather than merely estimable, Bartlett, the quotation is given as ‘Do you know what the Governor of South Carolina said to the Governor of North Carolina? It’s a long time between drinks, observed that powerful thinker.’ In BQ (5th edn, 1946), the formidable editor states that it’s a long time between drinks ‘is undoubtedly an invention’ and adds that ‘the expression antedates the Civil War’. See also it’s a long time between drinks. as the man in the play says occurs frequently in the comedies and farces of c. 1780–1840; it lends humorous authority to a perhaps frivolous statement. A felicitous example comes in Andrew Cherry’s extremely popular and enviably durable comedy, The Soldier’s Daughter, 1804, IV, i, where the drily humorous Timothy, to Frank Heartall’s Tim! Timothy!— Where are you hurrying, my old boy?’ replies:
Hey sir! Did you speak to me? Lord, I ask pardon, sir!—As the man in the play says, ‘My grief was blind, and did not see you.’ Heigho! P.B.: a mid-and later C20 equivalent is the radio comedian’s it says here, i.e. ‘in my script’, esp. as an excuse for a feeble joke. Cf:
as the man said was, c. 1969, imported from US (‘Heard in the last year or two’ (Petch, 1974); in the fact, a little earlier),
where current since c. 1950. It lends authority—occ., a humorous warning—to what has been said.
as the monkey said. ‘In English vulgar speech the monkey is often made to figure as a witty, pragmatically wise, ribald
simulacrum of unrestrained mankind. Of the numerous instances, “You must draw the line somewhere, as the monkey said
when peeing across the carpet” is typical. The phrase “…as the monkey said” is invariable in the context’ (L.A., 1969): since
(?) c. 1870.
Also US, as Fain hastened to point out: ‘Note the American as the monkey said when he sat down on the lawnmower, a rejoinder when someone says “balls!” College talk of the 1920s’. But in England, and in US (A.B.), the main use of ‘monkey/lawnmower’ is as an elab. of ‘they’re off,’ cried (or shrieked) the monkey, a proletarian c.p. (late C19–20) applied to a race, notably a horserace just started, hence to something that has come loose. A further var. of ‘they’re off!’ is as the monkey cried when he slid down the razorblade, and, without the monkey, there is the shorter, punning they’re off, Mr Cutts. A.B., 1979, adds the (? mainly US) ‘I’m getting a little behind in my work’, said the butcher as he backed into the meat-grinder.
Other monkey ‘sayings’, all couched in semi-proverbial form, are ‘A little goes a long way’, as the monkey said when he pee’d over the cliff (or, locally, over Beachy Head); ‘all is not gold that glitters’, as the monkey said when he pee’d in the sunshine, and the perhaps mainly Can. (? since c. 1930) ‘that remains to be seen’, as the monkey said when he shat in the sugar-bowl. This latter selection—there are no doubt many others in folk-memory-are all humorous elaborations, each of a cliché, a truism that must have so irritated some wit that he vented his exasperation in scatology.
The archetype of the genre is prob. every little helps… q.v. See also the five prec. entries, and the next one. (E.P.; P.B.) as the Windmill girl said to the stockbroker, dating since c. 1940, follows the pattern of as the actress said…; its vogue has lingered. The Windmill Theatre, London, justly prided itself on staying open throughout WW2. (R.S., 1977.) as we say in France, apparently current c. 1820–1900, was mainly a Londoners’ c.p. It occurs in, e.g., R.S.Surtees, Handley Cross, 1854, Vol. II, in the chapter entitled ‘The Cut-’Em-Down Quads’:
‘I vish we may!’ exclaimed Mr Jorrocks, brightening up; ‘Somehow the day feels softer; but the hair [i.e. air] generally
is after a fall. Howsomever, nous verrons, as we say in France: it’ll be a long time before we can ’unt, though—’edges
will be full o’ snow.’
as wears a head is a tag c.p., current c. 1660–1730 and meaning ‘as a human being can be’. In Thomas Shadwell’s The Scowrers: A Comedy, 1691, at III, i, we read: BLUST[ER]: I am glad to hear you say so: Your Worship’s as
wise a Man— WHACK[UM]: As wears a Head in the City. DING[BOY]: As wears a Pair of Horns there. [Aside.]
The phrase occurs often in Shadwell and other—and later—writers of comedies.
as you are stout, be merciful! A middle- and upper-class c.p. of C18. S (Dialogue I), 1738:
COL[ONEL]: Have you spoke with all your Friends?
NEV[EROUT]: Colonel, as you are stout, be merciful.
LORD SP[ARKISH]: Come, agree, agree, the Law’s costly. It had been recorded in 1721 by Kelly.
Here, stout does not mean ‘obese, corpulent’ but ‘strong’ or ‘brave’, as a gallant soldier is brave and fearless-and needs to be
In C19 stout gave way to strong (ODEP, 3rd edn, 1970). But this proverb-c.p. did not, I think, long survive WW1. [as you go up, be kind to those coming down: you may meet them (coming up again) as you go down. In Something of Myself, pub’d 1937 (the year after his death), Rudyard Kipling wrote, ‘One met men going up and down the ladder in every shape of misery and success’, which I think alludes to a c.p. I’ve been hearing since c. 1925, but been unable to nail down. [P.B.: E.P. had nailed it down: see always be nice…, which appeared in the 1st ed. of this Dictionary. I include this doublet from his subsequent notes for this present ed. because of the classical sources following.] It possesses the quality of the more sophisticated sort of proverb; this longer version sounds more like an aphorism than a c.p., but it has a shorter form [always be nice…], which neatly epitomises the vicissitudes of ‘the rat race’ and of the struggle for power. Ultimately it follows the thought pattern instituted by the Biblical ‘That which was first has turned, and now is last’ (Isaiah, 48, 12); cf ‘Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first’, which comes from Euripides, Hippolytus, 1. 982. ‘It also suggests all those phrases stemming from the concept of the wheel of fortune’ (W.J.B., 1978—to whom I owe the Biblical and Euripidean quot’ns). The several versions have had some currency in the US, apparently since c. 1960, as Col. Moe has ascertained for me.] as you were! ‘Used…to one who is going too fast in his assertions’ (Hotten, 1864): mid C19—early C20. But since c. 1915, it has signified ‘Sorry! My mistake’. The origin of the latter sense (and, of course, of the former) is made clear by F & G: ‘The ordinary military word of command, used colloquially by way of acknowledging a mistake in anything said, e.g. “I saw Smith —as you were—I mean Brown.”’ Much used in WW2: ‘The [military] phrase spread to ordinary conversation. “See you at Groppi’s [in Cairo] at 9.30—as you were, 10 o’clock”’ (PGR). ash.
See: one flash. ashore.
See: all ashore; come ashore. ask.
See: don’t ask; don’t say No; granted; I ask; I didn’t ask; I only asked; I took; I’ll ’ave; if you have to; knock three; nobody asked; thought; to make a fool; we asked; who asked; you asked. ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer (in US ask a stupid…); also ask silly questions and you’ll get silly answers: both versions often shortened, to elliptical ask a silly question! and ask silly questions. This is, in late (? mid) C19– 20, the c.p. evolved from an old proverb, ask no questions and you’ll be told no lies. ask another!; also ask me another! Don’t be silly!: mostly Cockneys’: late C19–20, orig. addressed to someone asking a stale riddle. Ware records ask another! for 1896. In 1942 Berrey records ask me another!, which, orig. Eng., prob. goes back to the 1890s. An early example occurs in ‘Taffrail’ (Cdr H.Taprell Dorling), Pincher Martin, O.D. [Ordinary Duty Seaman], : ‘“Silly blighter!” said the first lieutenant unsympathetically. “What the dooce did he want to get in the way for?”—“Ask me another,” laughed Tickle.’ ask cheeks near Cunnyborough! A low London—female only—c.p. of mid C18—mid C19. Lit. ‘Ask my arse!’ (Grose, 1785.) Cunnyborough=the borough, hence area, of cunny=cunt. Cf the male ask mine, or my, arse! ask me! was common among US students at the beginning of the 1920s. Recorded by McKnight. ask me another!
See: ask another! ask mine (later my) arse! Orig. nautical, always low, c.p. of evasive reply to a question: mid C18–20. (Grose, 1788.) Cf ask cheeks near Cunnyborough and also so is mine-later my—arse. [ask no questions and you’ll hear (or be told) no lies is not a c.p. but a proverb.] ask silly questions and you’ll get silly answers!
See: ask a silly question…. ask the man in charge!
See: don’t ask me. ask yourself. Be reasonable—be sensible: Aus.: since c. 1925. (Sidney J.Baker, Australian Slang, 1942.) Prob. elliptical for Well, just ask yourself! See also I ask myself. asking.
See: are you asking; I’m only a.; none the better; not you by; now you’re a.; that’s asking. ass.
See: arse; only asses. ass in a sling—have, or get, (one’s). Prec. by any pronoun (I, you, he, etc.) in any number or in any tense, as, e.g., ‘he has (or he’s got) his ass in a sling’, it has been glossed by R.C., 1978, thus: ‘To be in deep and (usually) painful difficulties. Literally, to have a kick in the ass so powerful as to necessitate the sort of sling used to support an injured arm. General US, since WW2 at latest, and probably working class use even earlier. By 1950s so widely known that our famous political cartoonist, Herblock, could play on it without words. [In 1954] the US Senate was finally compelled to move against Senator Joseph McCarthy [1908–57]… As hearings on the motion to formally censure him began, he injured (or claimed to have injured) his arm, and appeared at the hearings with it supported by a sling. When censure was finally voted, [the political cartoonist] Herblock depicted McCarthy emerging grimly from the Senate chambers, his arm in one sling, his fundament in another. No caption was given—or needed.’
Hence, of course, don’t get your ass in a sling: ‘Don’t do or say anything you can’t get out of or remedy’ (Fain, 1977): since the 1930s.
See: remember your; sailing ship.
See: you astonish; and:
astonish me! An educated, cultured, intelligent c.p., dating from early 1960s. In Derek Robinson, Rotten with Honour, 1973:
‘…There is still a good chance.’
Hale waited. ‘Go on,’ he muttered. ‘Astonish me.’
‘I think I might.’
Kingsley Amis, in Observer, 4 Sep. 1977, says that it ‘must be straight from “Etonne-moi, Jean”, Diaghilev to Cocteau’. The ambience of the Eng. c.p. being congruent, I think that Mr Amis is prob. right. Sergei Diaghilev (1872–1929) was, of course, the great Russian ballet producer; and Jean Cocteau (1889–1963), the French poet, playwright, novelist, who rather specialised in the art of étonner les bourgeois. If this orig. be correct, it comes from an Eng. translation of a book about either’Diaghilev or Cocteau.
P.B.: or it may be simply a ‘cultured’ var. of the more common surprise me! q.v.
at a church with a chimney in it. S, 1738, Dialogue I (p. 103, my edn):
LADY ANSW[ERALL]: Why, Colonel; I was at Church.
COL[ONEL]: Nay, then I will be hang’d, and my Horse too.
NEV[EROUT]: I believe her Ladyship was at a Church, with a Chimney in it [i.e. at a private house; but also
applicable to an inn].
This c.p. has been current throughout C18–20, although little since c. 1920 and, by c. 1970, virtually †.
’at done it! ‘That’s done it’—‘That caps it’. See if you can’t fight… In Cockney, ’at can be either hat or that, so there’s a
neat, thoroughly intentional, pun.
at least she won’t die wondering.
See: she will die wondering.
at this moment in time was being used to a nauseating extent in 1974—as, indeed, it is still —and Noble, 1974,
As you know, it’s become a cliché. But I now find that its use is considered so ridiculous by the more sensitive kind of people that it is coming into their conversation sarcastically as a catch phrase. It is one of those American importations that had at first a use for emphasis but has outstayed its welcome.
J.W.C. has noted that the cliché at that point in time was very frequently used during the Watergate hearings.
To Vernon Noble’s just comment, Mr S.C.Dixon, 1978, subjoins this well-deserved acerbity: ‘To which I add “In this day and age” and any reference to “at the grass roots”. (At our grass roots are worms.)’ atap.
See: up, Guards. atta boy! is how Edward Albee writes the next, in Act III of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1962. attaboy! is only apparently a ‘one-word c.p.’, for, via ’at’s the boy!, it stands for that’s the boy!, an expression of warm approval, either for something exceptionally well done or for especially good behaviour; exclamatory approbation: since c. 1910 in US (W & F); adopted in Britain in the last year (1918) of WW1—recorded by F & G, 1925, and see, e.g., Dorothy L.Sayers, Murder Must Advertise, 1933, ‘“Picture of nice girl bending down to put the cushion in the corner of the [railway] carriage. And the headline [of the advertisement]? ‘Don’t let them pinch your seat.’” “Attaboy!” said Mr Bredon [Lord Peter Wimsey].’
Much less common were attababy! (Berrey) and attagirl! (W & F, 1960—although in use long before that date). See also
A.B. adds, 1978, ‘I’ve heard a similar expression, used by coaches to inspire a successful athlete: way to go (fellow): US: since c. 1950. [It means] “That’s how to do it!” Revitalised on American television, especially in “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in”, 1960s.’ attention must be paid. ‘Last week, on a theater program, I saw a few reminiscences. Among them was the remark: “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman” [it opened in New York, 10 Feb. 1949] “gave us a catch phrase, Mildred Dunnock’s line: ‘Attention must be paid’.” The sentence has had some general use, but was, I think, rather a vogue expression than one making any lasting stay in the language’ (Shipley, 1975). R.C., 1977, ‘It retained enough (limited) currency in 1975 to figure as the peroration of an attorney’s summation.’ attitude is the art of gunnery and whiskers make the man. This c.p. has—by the rest of the Royal Navy—been applied to gunnery officers, who were also said to be ‘all gas and gaiters’: ‘the gas being their exaggerated emphasis on the word of command, and the gaiters being worn by officers and men at gun drill and on the parade ground’ (Rear-Adm.P. W.Brock, CB, DSO, 1969): since c. 1885. Naval gunnery became much more important when John Arbuthnot Fisher (1841–1920) was appointed the captain in charge of the gunnery school in the late 1880s; he and his disciples vastly improved both the standard of gunnery and the status of gunnery officers and men.
The lower-deck version is h’attitude is the h’art of gunnery and whiskers make the man, recorded by Granville. au reservoir! ‘Au revoir!’ According to Frank Shaw-I’m not doubting his word—this c.p. valediction was occasioned by Punch when, in 1899, ‘two engineering experts went to Egypt to survey the Nile water resources’: the phrase apparently caught on almost immediately; by 1940, ob. and by 1950 †. The slangy truncation, au rev!, however, did not rise to the pinnacle or status of c.p. Cf olive oil, q.v. au revoir.
See: say au r. Audley.
See: John Orderly. aunt.
See: I wouldn’t call; if my aunt; oh, my giddy; still running. Aunt Fanny.
See: cor! chase; like A.; my Aunt F. Aunt Hattie.
See: mad as. Aunt Mitty.
See: your Aunt M. Aunt Susie.
See: so’s your A. auntie.
See: eat up; I haven’t laughed; once round; since auntie. Austin Reed.
See: just part. Australian as a meat-pie (—as). Thoroughly, emphatically, obviously Australian: since (apparently) the late 1960s. ‘From the prominency of meat pie in the Australian diet’ (G.A.Wilkes, Dict. Aus. Coll., 1978—an exemplar of what such a book should be). ’ave a piece of gat(t)oo is a Cockney c.p. that, dating from c. 1929, forms a good-tempered yet derisive ‘take-off’ uttered lacking the (supposed) gentility of a knowledge of French, at the expense of those who air a tiny knowledge of that elegant language. (Based on a note from L.A., 1976.) average.
See: smarter, aw, forget it! A US c.p. current at least as early as 1911. (‘The Function and Use of Slang’ in The Pedagogical Seminary, Mar. 1912.) It became forget it, q.v. aw, gee, you don’t really love me, baby! ‘was [during the latter part of WW2 and after] said to be the G.I.s’ approach to a girl for favours’ (an anon, correspondent, 1978). ‘aw, shit, lootenant!’; an’ the lootenant shat. ‘Borrowed from the US army; a scornful c.p. used by the other ranks to describe ineffective and easily browbeaten subalterns. Often, to utter the first half of the phrase is enough’ (P.B., 1974): US, since c. 1942; also Brit, by the latish 1950s. aw shucks! ‘The conventional US and Canadian expression of yokel embarrassment. “Aw shucks! I couldn’t say that to a lady!”’ (Leechman): since c. 1910 and, as used by others than yokels, often joc. and always a c.p. It occurs, with a ref. to Huckleberry Finn, in John D.MacDonald’s The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything, 1962. Cf next. R.C., 1977, suggests, ‘almost certainly a euphemism (albeit unconscious) for “aw shit!” ‘P.B.: cf the use of synon. Oh, sugar! in Brit. Eng. aw, shucks, Ma, I can’t dance is a US c.p. that ‘used to indicate the futility of [trying to do] something beyond one’s ability, but sometimes because of something beyond one’s control’ (Moe, 1976): apparently ob. by c. 1950 and † by c. 1960. ‘In the past (the 1920s) it was frequently given more fully as “Aw shucks, Ma, I can’t dance, ’cause when I dance I sweat, and when I sweat I stink, and when I stink the boys won’t dance with me. Aw shucks, Ma, I can’t dance.”’ Clearly rural in origin, and then employed much more widely, it is one of several bucolicisms that became mock rustic. P.B.: cf the Brit, mock rustic ‘Don’t make I laugh, ’cause when I laughs, I pees myself, and when I pees myself that runs all down my leg.’ A Can. version, noted in the 1st edn. of this book as used ‘just for something to say’, was shit, mother, I can’t dance. aw, your fadder’s (occ. father’s) mustache! An elab. of your fadder’s mustache!, q.v. away.
See: have it a.; leg over; mugs; one that got; take it a.; up, up, and. away, the lads! ‘North of England regional, but known all over [Britain]. Its use sanctified by President Carter recently… It is, I think, a Geordie cry of encouragement for any group engaged in any activity. Chanted at soccer matches, especially when teams like Newcastle are engaged’ (Skehan, 1978). P.B.: sometimes rendered in print as ‘Ho-waaay the laads!’ It can also be used in the singular, ‘…the lad!’ away with the mixer! Either ‘Let’s go ahead!’ or derivatively ‘Now we’re going ahead’: since c. 1946. A concrete-mixer or a cocktail-mixer? away you go, laughing! A ‘c.p. of jocular dismissal, especially in the Services, after missing, e.g., a day’s leave or the issue of an item of one’s kit. “Nothing to be done about it”—“Make the best of it”—“Grin and bear it”. WW2’ (L.A., 1976). Cf and like it!, q.v. awful.
See: now you’ll; you are awful; you’re awful. axe.
See: where the chicken; you can axe. axe-handle.
See: out in the woodshed. axle.
See: here we come.
’ay is for ’orses.
See: hay is for horses. ay thang yew! I thank you! Since the mid-1930s, when comedian Arthur Askey constantly used it on radio—notably in ‘Band Wagon’—and elsewhere, but, from c. 1955, less and less general. That great comedian reputedly ‘borrowed it from the London bus conductors’ (Radio Times, 28 June—4 July 1975). Cf thanking you! aye, aye, don’t bust yer corsets! Don’t get excited all about nothing! ‘A deliberate cod [i.e., hoaxing] catch phrase used by Lance Percival on a radio show years ago. A send-up of catch phrases’ (John Sparry, 1977). Parodies seldom last long: nor did this one, ‘Invented by me for Lance Percival, but I can’t remember for which show!’: thus Barry Took, author of the delightful Laughter in the Air, 1976. aye, aye, that’s yer lot! ‘Jimmy Wheeler (1910–73) was a cockney [music-hall and radio] comedian with a fruity voice redolent of beer, jellied eels and winkles. He would appear in a bookmaker’s suit, complete with spiv moustache and hat, and play the violin. At the end of his fiddle piece he would break off his act and intone this catchphrase’ (VIBS). The c.p. was converted by the public to a much wider application: post-WW2. See also and that’s your lot! aye, aye, we’ve got a right one ’ere!
See: We’ve got a right one ’ere! aye, So is Christmas!