"Have XXX Will Travel"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Feb 3 18:14:37 UTC 2005

On Wed, 2 Feb 2005 23:54:24 -0600, Mullins, Bill
<Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:

>The science fiction author Robert Heinlein had a novel
>titled "Have Spacesuit Will Travel".  A recent commentary
>on his works (Robert A. Heinlein, A Reader's Companion by
>James Gifford, Nitrosyncretic Press) points out that it
>almost certainly was derived from the TV show "Have Gun
>Will Travel" (which I knew), but that an earlier version
>was the vaudeville phrase, "Have Tux, Will Travel" (which
>I didn't know).
>My PQ Historical Newspapers search on this phrase yielded
>1951 for a first cite, which sure seems late for a "vaudeville"
>>From www.etymonline.com :
>"Phrase have (noun), will (verb) is from 1954, originally
>from comedian Bob Hope, in the form Have tux, will travel;
>Hope described it as typical of vaudevillians' ads in
>"Variety," indicating a willingness to perform anywhere, any time."
>Hope wrote a book titled "Have Tux, Will Travel"
>Is the root of this phrase, "have (noun) will (verb)" older than
>the 1950's??

Earlier cites are available for "have tuxedo, will travel":

Nebraska State Journal, Jan 7, 1940, p. D7
When Columnist Louella Parsons' unit opened in Washington, D.C. last week,
Milton Berle wired:
"Lots of luck. Louella. Know you will be your charming self. (Signed)
Milton Berle, now appearing "See My Lawyer," $1.10 tops, on the air
Saturday night at 8:30; available for bazaars, confirmations, strawberry
festivals and banquets; special rates for picnic parties; can be reached
at Intervale 6-9432; it's a meat market, but they'll call me. Have tuxedo;
will travel."

Washington Post, Jun 11, 1942, p. 26
Private Julie Oshins of the vaudeville team of Oshins & Lessy now is at
Camp Upton. He filed his application for a role in Irving Berlin's "This
is the Army" revue, and listed his experience and qualifications. At the
end of the long list, the veteran Oshins instinctively added, "Have
tuxedo, will travel."

--Ben Zimmer

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