No man on the stair and who's Yehudi?

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Thu May 13 05:57:44 UTC 1999

"A. Vine" wrote:

> I learned this poem as:
>       As I was going up the stair
>       I met a man who wasn't there
>       He wasn't there again today
>       Oh God, I wish he'd go away.

Andrea began with a quote from Mark Mandel's memory of the verse:

>       Last night I met upon the stair
>       A little man who wasn't there.
>       He wasn't there again today.
>       Gee, I wish he'd go away.

As it happens, the poem is cited in _The Oxford Dictionary of  Modern
Quotations_  (1991, ed. Tony Augarde; Oxford/New York: Oxford University
Press).  Here is the full citation (from p.150):

        Hughes Mearns 1875-1965

        As I was walking up the stair
        I met a man who wasn't there.
        He wasn't there again today.
        I wish, I wish he'd stay away.

        _The Psycho-ed_ (1910 play), in _Newsweek_ 15 Jan. 1940

As I recall the "who's Yehudi" running gag, and the related song, Yehudi
was said to be "the little man who wasn't there".  I admit the poem came
to mind immediately when I was trying to think of the origins of "who's
Yehudi?", but my memory locks on the adjective "little" as an essential
part of the phrase. The poem may therefore be a red herring . . .

Let's go back to the _Army Times_ definition Barry gave us:

YEHUDI--The little man who cracks you on the back of the head with a

That makes sense as a reference to "the little man who wasn't there".
That diminutive chap was as ubiquitous as Kilroy (q.v.) and the source
of more things going wrong than were caused by the gremlins (q.v.!).  He
was the guy who didn't answer when somebody asked "Who screwed this
thing up?"  He was the convenient scapegoat because his absence meant he
couldn't offer any excuses.  He was the one who must have been on the
scene, but nobody noticed him.  People were looking for him in the
henhouse when they heard somebody say "ain't nobody here but us

This definition really says "it's the unexpected that does you in".

--  mike salovesh             <salovesh at>        PEACE !!!

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