A reader writes:
The other day the expression “borio boola gha” popped out of my subconscious and just sat there, so I looked it up, and find myself puzzled about its origins. It’s not in Brewer’s Dictionary, at any rate… I half suspect maybe a music hall song lyric, but I have not found the origin.
Here are the earliest of the examples she turned up, from archive.org and Google Books:
From Harper’s magazine, December 1867 to May 1868:
I mean some day to marry somebody who will indulge my likings; and how am I to find him in this benighted place, where the only men I meet are schismatic fledgelings, every other one preparing himself for the Gaboon mission or Borio-boola Gha? Do I look like a female missionary? No, I thank you!”
From Lichen Tufts: From the Alleghanies, 1860:
And this was not in Tartary, nor “Borio-boola Gha,” nor in the dark ages, but in the United States, in the middle of the nineteenth century.
So does anybody know where this piquant expression originated?