"Yes, we have no bananas"

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Wed May 29 02:21:06 UTC 2002

    This construction probably arose in immigrant speech and then was
picked up humorously at least by the writer of the song "Yes, We Have
No Bananas." In Russian, at least, if you say to someone "You don't
have any bananas, do you?" and that person doesn't have any, the
answer will be "Yes, we have no bananas." I.e., "Yes, you are correct
in suspecting that I might not have any bananas."

    Maybe other Slavic languages have the same construction, but the
Russian one would be sufficient to attract the attention of the alert

    BTW, In the 1960s, Mafia boss Joe Bonano (frequently referred to
as "Joe Bananas") was expected to show up for a court hearing. The
reporters were all gathered and waiting for his appearance, but
despite a wait of several hours, Bonano never came. At one point, the
reporters broke into song with the lyrics, "Yes, we have no Bananas,
we have no Bananas today."

Gerald Cohen

At 8:46 AM -0400 5/27/02, Fred Shapiro wrote:
>I found a reference on a web site to Tad Dorgan's having originated the
>expression "Yes, we have no bananas."  Can anyone shed any light on
>whether this is true?

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