Forgotten Catchphrases.

Via Louis Maistros’ Facebook post, I found a great newspaper squib (which you can see at Reddit if you don’t have access to FB) called “Progress of Civilization or Wise-Cracking Thru the Ages” and listing snappy comebacks from 1895 (“What’s your name? Puddingtame, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same”) to 1930 (“Oh, yeah?”). I presume it was published in 1930 or shortly thereafter; if anyone can source it, that would be great. At any rate, what struck me was that though some were still familiar, if antiquated (“Go jump in a lake,” “So’s your old man”), others have been utterly forgotten. If you google “You’re the Candy Kid” (the entry for 1900), you get all sorts of examples, e.g.:

“Captain Joe,” whispered Alex, patting the dog on the head, “you’re the candy kid! That’s Clay, without the shadow of a doubt. Now you tell him that we want to come aboard.” (Harry Gordon, The River Motor Boat Boys on the Ohio, 1913)
“Dear Sweetheart: ‘Ive watched You for a long Time, and I have decided that you’re the Candy Kid for sure.’” (Mattoon [Illinois] Morning Star, April 18, 1907, p. 1)
“You’re the candy kid!” (line of dialogue from The laughing cure, a comedy in two acts [c. 1916])

But where did it come from? I checked Eric Partridge’s indispensable (if unreliable) A Dictionary of Catchphrases, but he didn’t have it, and the same is true for the others I’ll mention. 1909’s “go to and stay put” is short and memorable (cf. the recent “keep calm and carry on”) and was used for some time (Dorothy Speare’s Dancers in the Dark [1922], p. 117: “I told him to go to and stay put”; John Bernard Mannion, “Pointers on Business Letter-Writing,” Postage and the Mailbag, Sept. 1921, p. 341: “We’d really like to have told our reader to go to and stay put”), but who came up with it? The same goes for 1912’s “You know me, Steve”; a good example with a doubtless fictional origin story is in M. H. Hirst’s “A Study in Contrasts,” The Central Literary Magazine, Vol. 23, p. 646:

He never moves even now, without a loaded automatic; and there are certain phrases of his which have become current coin in the mess — such as, in quick staccato accents, “ Got yer covered ” ; or “ You know me, Steve ! ” in tones of quiet menace.

“So I took the fifty thousand” (1926) is presumably from the 1923 song (YouTube); “Faw down and go boom” (1929) is from the Eddie Cantor song “I Faw Down an’ Go Boom!” (1928). Somebody should really do a proper historical catalogue, comparable to Green’s Dictionary of Slang; catchphrases are just as interesting as slang words!


  1. i remember one from (i think) Partridge:

    “in the days of old Rameses that story had paresis”

    it’s Google-able.

  2. In O. Henry’s The Cop and the Anthem, a hapless homeless man tries to get arrested by hitting on an innocent stranger (going “brazenly through the impudent and contemptible litany of the ‘masher’”), in view of a policeman: “Ah there, Bedelia! Don’t you want to come and play in my yard?”

  3. Here it is from 1930: The Daily Herald; Provo, Utah; Tue, Sep 9, 1930; Page 8. (Hoping that “free” link works.) Pretty sure this was syndicated, so elsewhere at the same time, but that’s what was indexed.

    Here is one from the 1932 Christian Science Monitor, attributed to Pathfinder, trimming some out and adding 1931: ballyhoo.

  4. Hoping that “free” link works.

    It did — thanks very much!

  5. It’s interesting how some of the obscure catch phrases still occasionally get referenced. I didn’t understand this Far Side cartoon, based on the “Pudding Tame” line, when it first appeared, and neither did my parents. The “candy” phrase survives in the first line of the lyrics to George M. Cohan’s “The Yankee Doodle Boy” from his first full-length musical, Little Johnny Jones (1904):

    I’m the kid that’s all the candy.

    The song is dated, certainly, but definitely not forgotten either

  6. There is a theory that “the whole nine yards” originates from an 1855 story, “The Judge’s Big Shirt”. It seems unlikely to me, although the OED gives it some credence.

  7. The song is dated, certainly, but definitely not forgotten either

    True, but I’m pretty sure nobody but antiquarians realizes that “the kid that’s all the candy” is a play on a fixed expression “candy kid.”

  8. Don’t know if this qualifies, but it was a favorite of my father, 1911-2007.

    “Go soak your head!”

  9. “We have no bananas,” believe it or not, is a phrase that made it over to Italy and has survived up to the present, at least in Tuscany. Usually in the form of “non ho più banane” or “oggi non ho banane,” meaning “I’m frazzled,” “I’m too tired to think straight,” “I’m down to my last neuron.” I’d always wondered if and how it was connected to the song, although no users of the phrase whom I’d asked had ever heard the tune. But now I see that must have traveled back to Italy with emigrants who worked for a while in NY and then came home. Eduardo Migliaccio recorded his own Neapolitan version, also in 1923, and there’s old sheet music of “Sì, non ho più banane!” for sale online.

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says

    cuchuflete, that sounds like a gentler version of the Scots ‘awa an bile yer heid!’

  11. I have heard my Irish mammy say “go boil your head”, most recently to a scamazon phonecall. The gentler version, though unfamiliar to me, seems to have more ghits.

  12. Hunting unsuccessfully for the origin of “Go soak yer/your head” I found mention of it in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer (1876). I also stumbled happily upon this unrelated gem:

  13. Unrelated except that it’s the last link in the post!

  14. Kate Bunting says

    I had always supposed that “Yes, we have no bananas” referred to rationing during WW2, so I’m interested to learn that the song dates to 1923. According to Wikipedia, it may relate to a plant disease which caused a banana shortage at that time.

  15. Unrelated except that it’s the last link in the post!

    As a certain Mr. Simpson might say, “Doh!”

  16. PlasticPaddy says

    I am happy to hear that a real or apocryphal banana shortage was the occasion for the utterance immortalised in the song. For me the trigger, as opposed to the occasion, is the illogicality of the utterance. The question might be “Do you have any bananas today”, or “Don’t you have any bananas today” or (this could be heard in Dublin), “Have you no bananas today” (a Dublin barman might ask patrons at closing time, perhaps ironically, “Have yous no homes to go to?”). The answer is, “No, sorry, but we have [other things, see song]”.

  17. Just good old-fashioned racism

    It’s run by a Greek.

    And he keeps good things to eat

    But you should hear him speak!

    When you ask him anything, he never answers “no”.

    He just “yes”es you to death, and as he takes your dough

  18. If you were a fan of the Firesign Theatre, say around 1969, and someone says,
    “Oh, he’s no fun,”. you will of course not skip a beat before saying, “ …he fell right over.”

  19. Rockefeller, Nixon, Humphrey, and Kennedy!

  20. And we shall carve a new nation out of the

    American Indian.

  21. “Have yous no homes to go to?”

    closing-time formulas could probably get a chapter of their own in that much-needed catalogue, from “hurry up please, it’s time” (if not “i can’t see a thing”) to the still-active “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here”.

  22. “Pudden Tame” has had a surprisingly long life. Actually I hadn’t heard of it until just a few years ago when I heard this 1963 song on an oldies radio show that often dives very deep:

    Note that the producer is Phil Spector! So he was doing this at the same time he was doing the Ronettes, the Crystals, etc.

    One of the comments says it was in a Stephen King book.

    Brett’s Larson reference is more recent also. So the “Pudden Tame” concept is kinda of burbling along deep in the collective unconscious somewhere.

  23. Another long-surviving catchphrase is “After you, Alphonse”.

    The origin lies in a 1901 comic strip

    Despite what this article says, I believe I have somewhere a Katzenjammer Kids strip that features Alphonse, Gaston and Leon as guest characters. However, I couldn’t locate it on short notice.

    A similar catchphrase was
    “Positively, Mr. Gallagher?”
    “Absolutely, Mr. Shean!”

    That was the catchphrase of the vaudeville comedy team, Ed Gallagher & Al Shean.

    Al Shean was a relative of the Marx Brothers, and helped them get into show business.

  24. That’s the ticket for soup! : Victorian views on vocabulary as told in the pages of Punch is remaindered at the University of Chicago Press. I’m not sure I’d unreservedly recommend it, even at 68% off, versus, say, browsing Partridge or Punch itself. But it is nicely produced and does go into a fair bit of detail on the few things it does choose.

  25. My father (1904-1993) taught me the “puddin’ ‘n tain” /᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄᷄ˈpʊdn̩ɪnteɪ̯n/ rhyme when I was a child, and I presume he himself learned it as a child when it was fairly new. The full form is “What’s your name? / Puddin’n tain / Where do you live? / Down the lane / What’s your number? / Cucumber.” The form “puddingtame” is clearly lectio difficilior.

  26. What the devil is that vertical glyph before the pronunciation?

  27. Those are ca. umptillion copies of the diacritic COMBINING MACRON-ACUTE (1DC4) over the slash, for some reason.

  28. A relatively recent catchphrase in Israeli Hebrew translates as “I’ll show you where the fish pisses from” (with whatever applicable pronouns). It’s roughly equivalent to the English “I’ll show you,” “I’ll show you what’s what,” or such. It’s a translation of a Moroccan Arabic idiom, so it must have been around for a while, but didn’t enter the language at large until relatively late.

  29. Primary stress mark.

  30. Another catchphrase (with a connection to Gallagher and Shean):

    “Ooh La La”

    credited to Fifi D’Orsay, who started out as a mentee of Ed Gallagher.

  31. “Pudden Tame” has had a surprisingly long life.

    “The examination of Sara Williams, taken vpon her oath, the 24 of Aprill 1602, before the Lord Bishop of London, Ma: Doctor Andrewes, Deane of VVestminster, Ma: Doctor Stanhop, and Ma: Doctor Mountford” from A declaration of egregious Popish impostures

    As touching that, which is written of this exam: of the fifth of Ianuary, that being exorcised, shee used many idle words: that he prated, and scoffed, cursed, and sung, called for a piper: when the Priest bad the deuill, tell him his name, he should make aunswer in her, Pudding of Thame: all which is said, to haue beene spoken by the spirit in her; she saith, that she might speake such words, when her head was so troubled, but she doth not remember them. And for the Pudding of Thame, she saith, she hath oft heard it spoken of iestingly, when she was a child.

  32. I wonder whether “candy kid” was still a recognized phrase* when Yankee Doodle Dandy came out in 1942. As I understand it, Cohan had retconned the song to be about himself decades before that, including falsely claiming to have been born on the Fourth of July. (In contrast, Ron Kovic, who took the line as the title of his anti-war memoir, Born on the Fourth of July, really was born on that date.**)

    * Since the song is so full of references to Americana (mostly, although not in this case, musical Americana), I was moved to wonder whether the first line was also a direct reference to something earlier. So I had discovered, “You’re the candy kid,” before this post. I am, however, definitely an antiquarian.

    ** When the Oliver Stone film (for which Kovic won a Golden Globe) came out and the author gained renewed public prominence, it never occurred to me to wonder whether he had actually been born on July fourth. If it had come up, I would have guessed not, that the title was metaphorical. However, “The Yankee Doodle Boy” apparently has a history of being interpreted as referring to military service, although neither the fictional Johnny Jones nor the fictionalized George M. Cohan were claimed to have been U. S. military veterans. When we learned the song in elementary school music class, Mrs. Webster (who I generally very much liked and respected) asked us if we could spot the reference to military service in the lyrics. I noted the mention of “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” already familiar with the content of that song. (I had read the lyrics of a ton of my mother’s old sheet music*** since it took up residence in our piano bench.****) However, she was thinking of, “I’m glad I am./ So’s Uncle Sam,” which I have never been convinced was relevant. Some people evidently just think of Uncle Sam as a military recruiter, not a personification of the federal government as a whole. (The most elaborate Halloween costume I ever made for myself, as opposed, to for my kids, was of Uncle Sam. The biggest part of the work was the pants, which my mom suggested giving stripes on one leg and stars on the other. So I cut out silver stars and sewed them to one side of a pair of blue trousers, while the other half I covered completely with fabric with red and white vertical stripes, which also used on my hat. I always had lines to go along with my elaborate costumes, but while I can remember what I said as Thorin Oakenshield, Geraldo Rivera, etc., I have no recollection of what I said as Uncle Sam instead of, “Trick or treat.”)

    *** Such as “The Cat Went Over the Catskills.”

    **** I mystified, as a young violin/viola player, why people needed music stands. When I rented my first instrument, they gave me one, buy I essentially never used it. There was no chair in our living room where I practiced, so I sat on the piano bench and put the sheet music up on the piano. Once I had the part memorized, I either sat on the bench or stood wherever in the room suited me. I was sort of surprised that everyone else did not do likewise. (I didn’t expect every American household to own an upright piano, but almost everyone who started playing viol at age nine did have a piano at home. My friend Kyle had two pianos at home, even. For the kids’ practice, they had an upright, but there was also a grand piano, mostly for the use of Kyle’s father, who was a professional jazz performer, teacher, and composer. Until he was about eleven or twelve, Kyle had to ask permission if he wanted to play the grand.)

  33. “Oh! You kid!” is a good one. Billy Sunday preached against it, a man was shot over it, and others were prosecuted for it.

  34. Primary stress mark.

    I know what primary stress marks look like, and that, sir, is no p̷̡͚̯̜̹͔͉̳̫͉̻͙͇͛̂ͅr̶̨̢̖̖͍̯̯̻̍͆͂͋̽͒͒̎̌͌̕̕͝͠ͅi̸̝͚̼̳̦̦͉̘͖͕̾̽̕ͅm̶̖͇̗̣̾̆̃ą̴̫̹͍͖̏̓̎̆̍̈̍̔̏̀̉r̵̛̥͖͈̗͖̼̱͆̽̊̅̓́͑̕͝ͅy̶͖̼̆͗ ̵̤̫̪̮͆͋͐̂̔̌̇̊̔̀̋̅͌̔͘͘͠ş̴̖͙̬̤͈͈̙̮̪̮͚̝̣̪͎̒͜t̴̛̫̦͉̤̪̰̟̻̑͂̋̔̌̂͛̇̍͐͋́̀͋͘r̴̡̬̗͈̯͕̼̠̝̘̱͆̈̿͊́̃͠ë̸̛̯̻̼̯̳̖̬͌̓̎͌̓̿̏͂̎͜͠ṣ̷̛͈͈͇̣̺͍͔̝̬̄̆̑͂̅̉̄͝s̵̡̢̪͇̻̩͈͆͗̈́̅̈́͊̓̉͂́̚̚̚͝ ̸̨̧̛̤̘̥̪̮̭̭̗̞̝̞͈̠̾͛́̾̌̎́̐́̕m̸̤̰͍͍̪͖͈̠͑͋̕a̴̛͈̥͙̥̻̜̙̦̲͓̩͈͖̰̙̻͛̍́̽͗̈̅̂͝ͅr̶̻͂̃͌̂̋͐́̑̈́͌͝͝͝͝ǩ̷̡͚̹̫̭̮̯̦̠̼̗̝̭͛.

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