plausibility check

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 20 18:19:02 UTC 2010

I was wondering how plausible is the dating of the two phrases below.
My initial search is not a full inquiry--it's meant to spur an
inquiry, if anyone cares.

"[Fuck/Bleep/To hell with/Same to] you and the horse you rode in on..."

The earliest GB hits appear to be

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972)
North Dallas Forty (1973)
The Decline and Fall of America (1973)

There are actually a few more hits for 1973-4, but they are obscure
and some are likely spurious. None have been verified on paper.

"[Is that your nose] or are you eating a banana?"

The earliest GB cites are 1978-9, some fully confirmed. One refers to
the "Mutt and Jeff joke". New York Magazine used it as a phrase in one
of its colloquialisms contests in that period, but some citations
appear to be independent/pre-dating.

I am curious about these two because they share a peculiar
property--they are often used in vernacular without the bracketed

Another query--and I've been curious about this one for some time:

"There is more than one way to skin a cat."

There is an explosion of GB hits in 1970-72, close to 100 and none
prior. Some are spurious or unlikely, some are likely mistagged, but
some appear authentic. Pre-1980 there are about 450 GB hits (including
the ones above).

The slightly less robust "There are many ways to skin a cat" gets
considerably fewer hits, but also dates back to 1970.

But there is an earlier variant:

"[S]he was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat--or
a nation..."

This time the attribution really is Mark Twain (Connecticut Yankee...
-- confirmed, Chapter VIII) and it refers to the Church. Some of the
early 70s cites also use the form "knew more than one..."

Bob Devaney (math professor at BU; originally from Massachusetts North
Shore area) used a variant "There is more than one way to peel a
banana", which also gets a couple of GB hits (1975).


The American Dialect Society -

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