Query: "I've got your number."

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 17 00:06:38 UTC 2010

Oh, I forgot to mention--the title pre-dates OED "bus driver" by 26 years!


On Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 8:04 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Clearly not telephone. Consider this line from a 1844 Punch poem.
> http://books.google.com/books?id=40wPAQAAIAAJ
> Punch, Vol. 7, 1844, p. 261
> The Buss-Driver's Lament Over Bygone Days.
> ...
> When we,--that is, myself and cad,--
> Could o'er our pewters slumber ;
> But, stop an instant now, 'gad !
> The p'liceman 's got your number.
> But all this show is that the expression was in use in 1844 London,
> not where it came from.
> I do have a couple of guesses, but I'll post them later. I hope this
> is not a rush question.
> VS-)
> On Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 7:28 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>> At 6:14 PM -0500 3/16/10, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>>>  A colleague has asked me about the origin of the slang phrase "I've got
>>>your number" (= to have precise, useful knowledge of someone's weaknesses;
>>>have someone in a critical position).
>>>I checked Jonathan Lighter's excellent HDAS and see examples going back to
>>>1853, but I don't see an etymology given, so I suppose this silence equates
>>>to "Origin unknown."
>>>I see various items on the expression in Google but am not clear about their
>>>reliability.  Would anyone know what the "number" originally referred to?
>>>Gerald Cohen
>> I always assumed, without any privileged knowledge, that it referred
>> to a phone number:  I've got your number, I know where to reach/get
>> to you, you can't escape...   Maybe evoking those old movies like
>> "Dial M for Murder", in which the bad guy has the good guy/gal's
>> (phone) number and can call it at will to raise the latter's fear
>> quotient and the audience's tension.  But that's just a guess.
>> LH

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