Antedating of "Been There, Done That"

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 9 16:18:58 UTC 2010

We've been there and we've done all that—and more.

Ten days ago I sent an unverified 1976 citation for this phrase to the
list. The saying is present in "Middle-Age Crisis" by Barbara Fried
(revised 1976 edition) based on direct inspection of a dead-tree
artifact. There is also 1967 edition of this work. But a search in the
Google Books digital copy of the 1967 edition strongly suggests that
the quotation is not present.

Cite: 1976, "The Middle-Age Crisis: Revised Edition. With a New
Introduction by Robert A. Raines" by Barbara Fried, Page 112, Harper &
Row, New York. (Google snippet view; Verified on paper in the 1976

It is impossible to forget after all those years of being mature that
we're supposed to have outgrown such youthful nonsense. We've been
there and we've done all that—and more. And who in his right mind
wants to go back and relive every aspect—not just the fun parts—of a
situation he left behind him twenty-five years before?

Bill Mullins presented some fine cites. The earliest were found with
flexible matching requirements.

Here is an example in 1902 with the two subphrases reversed: "done
that, been there". That is a less common modern variant of the
expression, but the intended meaning in 1902 is not quite the same.

Cite: 1902, Poor fellow! by Mrs. J. H. Riddell, Page 117, F.V. White,
London. (Google Books full view)

Geniuses did not really appeal to, or amuse, or interest them in the
least, but they liked to say they had met Mr. ---, who had invented
this, done that, been there, or was going somewhere else.


On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 4:04 PM, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC
<Bill.Mullins at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mullins, Bill AMRDEC" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
> Subject:      Re: Antedating of "Been There, Done That" (UNCLASSIFIED)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: NONE
> The _Queenslander_ [Brisbane] has "Men had been there, done the work,
> and disappeared." From 22 Jan 1898
> More on point:
> Reggie Jackson "Charged Up Champion" LA Times 8/30/1975 p 6 col 1
> (ProQuest Hist Newspapers)
> "This is a man who has been there and done it and if you don't pay him
> respect, he'll ruin you." [Reggie Jackson speaking about Joe Rudi;
> excerpted from _Reggie:  A Season with a Superstar_ by Reggie Jackson
> and Bill Libby, Chicago: Playboy Publishing, 1975.]
> _Kingman [AZ] Daily Miner_ 10/25/1976 p. 5 col 7 (Google news archive)
> "The there is the other main category -- the people I don't like enough
> to spend 13 cents and the price of a card on.  The come in three
> sub-groups and are labeled as (1) slim, (2) optimistic, and (3) "I've
> been there and done that already." "
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
> Behalf Of
>> Shapiro, Fred
>> Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 11:37 AM
>> Subject: Antedating of "Been There, Done That"

>> I have previously pushed back the phrase "been there, done that" to
> 1982.
>> Here is a 1979 citation from Google News Archive.  It is from an
> Australian
>> newspaper, reinforcing the apparent Australian provenance of the
> phrase:
>> 1979 _The Age_ 3 Dec. 11 (Google News Archive)  Mr. Lynch has
> continued to
>> recover from the 1977 crisis when he was forced to resign over his
> family
>> financial affairs.  Although he now appears certain to stay past the
> next
>> election, he has the air of the man who says "I've been there, done
> that."
>> Fred Shapiro
>> Editor
>> YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

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