Quote: Meretricious and a Happy New Year (1930 December 6)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 10 18:36:01 UTC 2010

On BBC radio in the 1970s an interviewer once told Gore Vidal that his
novel Lincoln was meretricious, and he responded:

Really? Well, meretricious and a happy New Year to you too!

This repartee is recorded in an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of
Humorous Quotations (2008) that traces the pun back to a "NBC radio
show starring the Marx Brothers, Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel, in
1933" and "Franklin P. Adams in the 1930s".

Here is an excerpt from a Walter Winchell column in 1930 that mentions
members of the Algonquin Round Table and includes the pun. Perhaps
some list member can help with the interpretation of one of the puns
in the passage that is based on Arizona.

Cite: 1930 December 6, Wisconsin State Journal, On Broadway by Walter
Winchell, Page 3, Madison, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)

Making up sentences with certain words still remains one of the most
amusing parlor pastimes. They were cleverly toying with puns again
last night. The name of Sessue Hayakawa came up and someone remembered
how Woollcott once used: "Hayakawa keep 'em down on the farm?" And F.
P. A. clowned with Theopholis, viz: "That was Theopholis book I ever

Then this: "That was no lady. Arizona my wife!" And: "She drinks
Anticipates terribly!" It was decided, too, that the most famous is
"Sanctuary much for the buggy ride," and that one of the cleverest
contains the word Meretricious—like this: "Meretricious and a Happy
New Year!"

However —  Dorothy Parker's sentence with the word "congeal" is our
favorite silly. Dorothy uses it this way: "Jack congeal went up the

Here is my interpretation for Arizona and the rest. Alternative
suggestions are welcome:
Arizona: there was only, that was only, it was only.

Hayakawa: how you gonna; Theopholis: the awfulest;; Anticipates: and
dissipates; Sanctuary: thank you very; Meretricious: Merry Christmas;
Congeal: and Jill.

F.P. A. probably refers to Franklin P. Adams. The initials are given
as E. P. A. in one instance of the newspaper column and F. P. A. in
another instance. I think E. P. A is a misprint.


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

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