Idiom or Modern Proverb: Put your money where your mouth is (antedating 1921 April 26)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Mar 23 09:57:45 UTC 2010

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Garson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2010 7:51 PM
Subject: [ADS-L] Idiom or Modern Proverb: Put your money where your mouth              is              (antedating 1921 April 26)

Put your money where your mouth is.

The online Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms has this phrase listed
in the category money. It is designated informal and no date is given.
The Yale Book of Quotations has it in the Modern Proverbs section and
provides a 1945 citation. One might utter it as an admonishment or as
a philosophical guideline for better living.

The first cite I located is in an advertisement calling for
contributions to keep a school open in Arkansas in 1921.

Citation: 1921 April 26, Jonesboro Daily Tribune, Advertisement, Page
2, Jonesboro, Arkansas. (Genealogybank - note: database identifies
newspaper as Jonesboro Evening Sun)

              Put Your Money Where
                    Your Mouth Is!

You've been censoring the School Board for
voting to abandon the High School next year.
Now, here's a chance for YOU to do something.

       Forty Dollars will Take One Pupil
        Through High School Next Year.

The second citation is written in dialect by Stark Young, described by
Wikipedia as an American teacher, playwright, novelist, painter,
literary critic and essayist. The passage also appears in the 1926
work Encaustics by Stark Young.

Citation: 1922 August 16, New Republic, The New by Stark Young, Page
334, Column 1, Vol. XXVI, The Republic Pub. Co. (Google Books full

"But I say let him git a job o' his own. He jes baigs and baigs
sometimes, and 'en I jes say naw, sir, you put yo money where yo mouth
is and you'll git it."

These instructions should not be taken literally as shown by this 1895
warning in the New York Times.

Citation: 1895 January 6, New York Times, Don'ts, Page 18, New York
Times Co. (Google News Archive, New York Times News Archive)

  Some "don'ts" given by The Boston Transcript are worth heeding:
Don't put money in your mouth. It is not only filthy, but may need
  Don't often put candy in your mouth. Investigation in dentistry
shows that decayed teeth are the work of a micro-organism that breeds
in the acid produced by disintegration of sugar.


Thanks. Iinteresting. Here's another:

New-York tribune. Sunday, August 24, 1913, Image 4
August 24, 1913, Page 4, Image 4

Senators in Clashes Over Wool Schedule
...The Texas Senator [Sheppard] tried to refute statements made by Senator Smoot
regarding the importation of woolen goods under the Wilson-Gorman tariff law
and challenged him to produce his figures. The Utah senator explained that he did not
have them with him.
"Put your money where your mouth is," retorted Senator Sheppard.
"I am surprised that that remark should be made by any Senator,
even from Texas," replied Senator Smoot.
Then followed hot words and a challenge by Senator Sheppard
to compare Texas with Utah;words=Put+money+where+your+mouth

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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