Query: Let George do it (UNCLASSIFIED)

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 13 20:11:19 UTC 2009

I did a brief top-level Google Books search (no date restrictions) and
got a few pointers.

Common Phrases by Korach and Mordock suggest not only that the phrase
originated with Louis XII and his "Laissez-faire à Georges" but was
translated and "revived" in England "when Lord George was at the height
of his power and popularity". This description is on p. 91.
Unfortunately, p. 92 is not "Googled" so it's hard to tell if there is
any more on the phrase there. Evans & Bentley's Comfortable Words cites
the "French" phrase as "Let George do it, he's the man of the age."

For a viewable sample of McManus's strip, see The Bookman--apparently
volume 31 from March-August 1910--offers a glimpse. The strip is on p.
292, although the corresponding text is on p. 293.


A couple of additional twists. A 1940 British film with the same title
(essentially anti-German propaganda) appears to have played a role in
the revival of the phrase which was in common use during WWII. Of
course, the phrase was used to tag those who "did not contribute their
share to the war effort". Unsurprisingly, once the autopilot was
invented, it became known as George. (Don't recall if that reference
appeared in "Airplane!".)

Partridge & Beale (A Dictionary of Catch Phrases) point to the specific
source that suggests French origin (Menken's 1922 edition--which was
probably the source for Evans & Bentley as well), although they also
note that it was "a journalistic catch phrase from circa 1910". It's not
clear how much of this is real and how much an urban legend. P&B also
note that the phrase became essentially obsolete in the UK by 1950 and
in the US by 1970.

The NDAS lists the expression as "early 1900s British" with the familiar
French legend. There is no reference to McManus.

The latest incarnation in in the title of children's book by George
Foreman, of course (considering that all his sons are named George).


Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
> 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.

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

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