Query: Let George do it

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 13 19:09:11 UTC 2009

That makes as least as much sense as my suggestion that "my man" in BE
- I first heard this use in 1961, used by fellow black GI's as a
neutral term of address - comes from a lack of knowledge of the
British class system combined with a misunderstanding of BrE "my man"
as a term addressed only to an underling and not the sign of
friendship that plain BE "man" is, the crossing of BrE "my man" X AmBE
"man" = "my man" being reinterpreted as a cooler usage than the plain
BE "man." As is well-known, BrE is often felt to be "classier" than

This really used to annoy me that there would be such a lack of
knowledge among the bruthaz that they would voluntarily adopt an
insult as something cool.

Considering that nowadays, even I accept "my man" as cool, it's easy
to see, for me, at least, that "let the Negro do it" could, over time,
shift to merely, "let somebody else be bothered with it," the
approximate meaning that it had when I first heard it in the 'Forties,
especially when you consider that, IME, this expression isn't used
even by us pswaydo-assimilated blacks.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Wed, May 13, 2009 at 12:07 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â 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? Â 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. Â "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):
> Â  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> Â 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> Â 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.'
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