Updating Partridge's CATCH PHRASES

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Mon Aug 23 04:37:59 UTC 1999

      In my brief spare time (when I'm on this continent and not at my job),
I've been trying to update Eric Partridge's A DICTIONARY OF CATCH PHRASES
(1977) and Mitford M. Mathews's DICTIONARY OF AMERICANISMS (1951).  I've been
running words & phrases through the Making of America and Periodicals
Contents Index databases first, and then the other computer databases.
      Partridge had been working with words for half a century.  He had many
scholarly books to consult and many scholars helped him.  There should be
little chance for "whoppers."  Within the book's first few pages is this:

_alone I did it_ is both British and US.  My only early record of this latish
C19-20 c.p. occurs in Act I of Alfred Sutro's _The Fascinating Mr.
Vanderbilt_, performed and published in 1906...

     The English Drama database and came up with a slightly earlier hit:

William Shakespeare, CORIOLANUS (1623)--"Alone I did it, Boy."

      Keep in mind, this is just the first seven pages!  On page nine,
Partridge lists "and I don't mean maybe" and cites DANCE MAGIC (1927).  I
knew he was weak on Americanisms, but didn't the whole darned world know
"Yessir, that's my baby; no sir, I don't mean maybe"??
      This will probably be a continuing series of postings, but here are
some results (mostly from the Periodicals Contents Index):

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE (JEWS/BLACK/et al.)--Partridge gives no early
citations but states "dates not later than 1940 and has probably been current
since the early 1930s."  There are: "Some of My Best Friends Are Yale Men"
(VANITY FAIR, May 1921, pg. 61),  "Some of My Best Friends Are Soldiers"
(JOURNAL OF NEGRO EDUCATION, 1946, pg. 216), ""Some of My Best Friends Are
Catalogers" (WILSON LIBRARY BULLETIN, Nov. 1948, pg. 243), and "Some of My
Best Friends Are Professors" (JOURNAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 1959, pg. 114).

AGE BEFORE BEAUTY--Partridge has "late C19-20, but rarely heard after (say)
SAYINGS--also without an early first citation.  "Age Before Beauty" is in
SCRIBNER'S MONTHLY, vol. 5 (1872-1873), pg. 767.

IF YOU'RE SO SMART, WHY AIN'T YOU RICH?--Not in Partridge, but it came up
while searching "ain't."  I couldn't find it in other books, either.  The PCI
has it from May 1971, AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, pg. 289.

ALL DRESSED UP LIKE A FIRE ENGINE--Also not in Partridge, but he has "all
dressed up and no place to go" and "all dressed up like Mrs. Astor's horse."
The "fire engine" was in ART IN AMERICA, Winter 1956/57, pg. 54.  Perhaps
this phrase helped give birth to the phrase "bells and whistles."

ALL SYSTEMS GO--From the 1960s NASA Space Program, but no one has citations.
The PCI has "All Systems 'Go'" in LISTENER, Nov. 7, 1963, pg. 728.

ALL SMOKE AND MIRRORS--Not in Partridge, who has the ancient "all smoke,
gammon and spinach."  From a magic act.  PCI has QUADRANT, Dec. 1988, pg. 29,
but Nexis should beat this.

REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR--Certainly not earlier than December 7, 1941.  PCI has
it in UNITED STATES NEWS, Jan. 2, 1942, pg. 28.


MISHEARD SONG LYRICS--There was a series of books on this by Gavin Edwards:
  DECK THE HALLS WITH BUDDY HOLLY (Christmas lyrics) (1998)

DAGWOOD SANDWICH--"A Dagwood Sandwich.  The Films in Review" is in THEATRE
ARTS, Nov. 1946, pg. 669.  Perhaps it's on film?

MISSOURI SPELLINGS--I might have forgotten "Mizzoora" in OVERLAND MONTHLY,
July 1888, pg. 45, and "Mizzoorah" in OVERLAND MONTHLY, January 1895, pg. 37.

BRONX COCKTAIL--David Shulman has a citation from 1901; two citations offer
varying theories about how it originated at the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan.
The interview I remember reading featuring Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan was in
the DAILY NEWS, October 1998 (available on Dow Jones)--he also credits the
Waldorf Hotel.  I'll know more when I look at the Waldorf menus and

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