Query: Let George do it (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Wed May 13 17:57:13 UTC 2009

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

"Let George Do It" is a hard phrase to search for; Nineteenth Century
Newspapers and N'archive.com compress ignore the small words and give
back way too many cites.  But Newsbank 19th Cent U.S. Newspapers and
Proquest Historical Newspapers both show the phrase starting (with a
vengeance) around mid 1909.

I'm pretty sure the vector for the phrase was George McManus's comic
strip by that title -- "Let George Do It".  I can't find anywhere on the
net any specific dates of its running, but 1909 is about right.  (The
earliest I can find the strip in N'archive is June 1 1909)

Of course, this dodges the question "Where did McManus get the phrase?"

Google Books has a snippet view from _A Book About a Thousand Things_ by
George Stimpson, saying: "Let George do it is believed to have
originated in France in the fif-".

Other snippet views indicate that Louis XII made the statement in
reference to his prime minister.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
> Behalf Of Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 11:08 AM
> Subject: Query: Let George do it
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> --------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Subject:      Query: Let George do it
> --------
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list