See you in the funny papers!

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed May 8 15:53:19 UTC 2002

>Can anyone tell me about the origin of this expression or provide early
>examples of its use that would help to tie it down to a period?

First, I don't know how universal the "see you" version of "good-bye" is,
so I'll point out that "See you" is a common casual farewell, which may be
used even between persons who have never seen each other and never will:
often it's "See you later", "See you around", etc. Specific forms are of
course like "See you next week/month/etc.", "See you at
work/school/church/etc.", etc. Alternative "I'll see you", > joke response
"Not if I see you first!". Other jokes such as "See you in church" [used
between non-churchgoers] occur.

Chapman's slang dictionary dates "See you" to 1891 [or earlier, of course].

Lighter's HDAS shows (vol I, p. 848, under "funny paper"): <<1926 Maines &
Grant, _Wise-Crack Dict._ 14: _See you in the funny sheet_-- A humorous way
of saying good-bye.>>

This MAY be within a decade or so of the time of the first use, since (1)
the "see you" type of farewell would need to be well established (which
would be perhaps 1900-1920 somewhere??); (2) the joke is better if
"funnies"/"funny papers"/"funny sheet" implies "cartoon page(s)" rather
than the earlier "funnies" which were dominated by text jokes etc.
(therefore again maybe 1900-1920??).

One might speculate that "See you in the funny papers" etc. followed an
earlier jocular augmentation like "See you in the [news]paper[s]", either
as nonsense (cf. "See you under the clock") or with the humorous
implication that the hearer might be involved in something
dubious/newsworthy (cf. "See you in jail"). However I cannot document this
myself, it's just my speculation.

I believe "See you in the funnies" has the implication that the hearer is
funny-looking or peculiar and might appear in a cartoon. This remark became
so cliched later (ca. 1945??) however that I believe it lost any harshness
which it might have had. I believe it now sounds "old-fashioned".

See y'all later.

-- Doug Wilson

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