Query: Let George do it

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Wed May 13 16:07:33 UTC 2009

Is there any chance that the phrase "let George do it" refers to the Pullman porters, regularly called "George," after George Pullman who hired them?  The porters were all African-American, not far removed from slavery, and trained to cater to every whim of their white passengers.

I can easily imagine a white passenger finding something that needed attention and being willing to take care of it by himself/herself but then being reminded that that was unnecessary.  "Let George do it."

If so, we would deal here with an indirect contribution of African Americans to standard English. (Another one, already well recognized, is "grandfather clause.")

Btw, here's what OED online has about the phrase (No etymology is given; none in HDAS either):

   6. b. Colloq. phr. let George do it: let someone else do the work or take the responsibility. orig. U.S.
1910 Bookman May 293/2 What's going to happen when Lovey asks papa to hold Snookums and that hitherto devoted parent replies, 'Let George do it.' 1942 WODEHOUSE <https://minermail.mst.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://dictionary.oed.com.libproxy.mst.edu/help/bib/oed2-w3.html%23wodehouse>  Money in Bank (1946) xvi. 140 He was not familiar with the fine old slogan, Let George Do It. 1948 Chicago Tribune (Grafic Mag.) 10 Oct. 8/1 Producers have a way of saying 'Let George do it' whenever a particularly difficult villain role turns up. 1971 P. G. WODEHOUSE <https://minermail.mst.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://dictionary.oed.com.libproxy.mst.edu/help/bib/oed2-w3.html%23p-g-wodehouse>  in N.Y. Times Encycl. Almanac 1971 448 It is the old, old story. Overconfidence. We tell ourselves, 'Oh, I can't be bothered getting a divorce. They'll be plenty without me. Let George do it.'

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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