just too small

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Jan 28 21:50:26 UTC 2005

George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU> wrote:
>Here is a familiar expression that I don't see in HDAS or in Whiting &
>Taylor's collection of American proverbs.
>New York city at that time wasn't big enough to hold Josie Mansfield,
>Jim Fisk and Stokes all at once.
>Samuel A. Mackeever, Glimpses of Gotham and City Characters, N. Y.:
>National Police Gazette, 1880, p. 18, col. 2 [Jim Fisk, the rascally
>financier; Edward Stokes wound up shooting him.]

Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM> wrote:
>As I've heard it, undoubtedly in a western, "This town ain't big enough for
>the both of us!"

And let's not forget this classic exchange...

"Bugs Bunny Rides Again" (1948, directed by Friz Freleng)

Yosemite Sam: This town ain't big enough fer the two of us!
Bugs Bunny: It ain't?
Sam: No, it ain't!
(Bugs builds up the town until it resembles the New York skyline)
Sam: No, still not big enough!

Here's an early example from Warrenton, Georgia (not exactly the Wild
West, but apparently notorious at the time for blood feuds):

THREE SHOTS And Puts an End to the Life of Cody, Who Had Attempted to
Assassinate Him--A Woman in the Case.
Atlanta Constitution, Oct 13, 1889, p. 15

Well, Jim," said McGregor. "I always thought you did it, and I want to say
that this town isn't big enough for both of us. I have nothing to leave
for, and you have. I won't hurt you. You didn't think of my wife and
children, but I will think of yours, but you must leave here in ten days."
"But, Mack, I can't get ready in that time."
"How long do you want?"
"I don't know."
"Will a hundred days suit you?"
"Then in a hundred days you musg go. The town ain't big enough for both of
us, and if you go, all right; if you don't, I will prosecute you."

--Ben Zimmer

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