Christmas Eve Antedating : "Humbug"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 25 02:46:05 UTC 2009

"Ain't that a bite?!", as 'twas said in my youth, ca. late '40's.
Unfortunately, my impression at the time was that "bite" was a cover for
"bitch." Hence, as much as I'd like to, I can't connect that _bite_ with the
_bite_ cited by Fred.

WRT _humbug_, which I first heard in the '40's, spoken by Basil Rathbone as
Ebenezer Scrooge - "Bah! Humbug!" It was (re?)introduced to black Saint
Louis by "Yo' panyo," Amos Doston, in the '50's as part of one of his catch
phrases, "VP on a humbug," e.g. "cut this jam, on a humbug," "booted a
brand-new Cadillac right off the dealer's lot, on a humbug."

I never truly understood the meaning of this use nor did anyone else,
probably, since the phrase never really gained any traction on the street
and died out as soon as Dostn was hired away by a Chicago station.


On Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 7:11 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Christmas Eve Antedating : "Humbug"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> humbug (OED 1751)
> 1750 _The Adventures of Mr. Loveill_ 197 (Eighteenth Century Collections
> Online)  That species of wit some time since laugh'd out of the world by Mr.
> Addison, under the name of _Bite_, and now reviv'd among the polite world,
> under that of _Humbug_.
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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