Widget (1924?)

Michael Quinion TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Sun Sep 1 08:11:39 UTC 2002

> This is from a review of the film BEGGAR ON HORSEBACK, by George
> S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly. Their play appeared on Broadway in
> 1924. Unfortunately, NYU doesn't have a copy of the play.

The word 'widget' does appear in the play and it seems very likely
that its authors did invent the word. In my piece on the term, at
<http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-wid1.htm>, I comment:

It appears in the play Beggar on Horseback, by George Kaufman and
Marc Connelly, which was first performed in 1924. The play is a
parable that warns of the perils of trading one's artistic autonomy
for filthy lucre. The character Neil McRae is a struggling young
composer, engaged to the daughter of a rich but philistine
businessman. In a nightmare sequence, he visualises what life would
be like in a big bureaucratic business, in which ideas come from
the Inspiration Department. His possible future father-in-law
explains that his firm is in the widget business: "Yes, sir! I
suppose I'm the biggest manufacturer in the world of overhead and
underground aerial widgets". The joke, of course, is that the young
composer never finds out what these widget things really are.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <TheEditor at worldwidewords.org>
Web: <http://www.worldwidewords.org/>

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