Phrase: the old, slam-bang, thank-you-ma'ams (automobile tires circa 1925 probably)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 8 07:41:33 UTC 2011

_Bip-bam..._ is a BE variant. Always with sexual refs, IME. It was
primarily known as the punch line of a lame, long-since forgotten
joke. It was most recently - the mid-'50's, again, IME - heard in a
song by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters, in which it gave a coarse,
sexual frisson to an otherwise-innocuous little ditty.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 3:05 AM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Phrase: the old, slam-bang, thank-you-ma'ams (automobile tires
> Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â circa 1925 probably)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Thursday's  Freakonomics blog post discussed the phrase
> "wham-bam-thank-you ma’am!"
> Fred listed an instance in the 1948 play Mister Roberts, where a
> sailor character said "Well there goes the liberty. Â That was sure a
> wham-bam-thank-you ma'am!"
> Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2005) lists some variants in which the
> terms "ram bam", "gangbang" and "slam bam" are substituted for "wham
> bam".
> I found an instance of "ram bam" in 1943 in a book by the prominent
> humorist Max Shulman. According to Google Books the following passage
> appears in the novel "Barefoot Boy with Cheek".
> A barefoot maiden in a white gown entered bearing a young ram above
> her head. She deposited the ram in Roger's lap. "Ram, bam, Thank you
> ma'am" he said.
> So Max Shulman constructed a scenario in which "ram" referred to a
> literal animal, but the humor for some readers may have been generated
> by the knowledge of the sexual meaning of the phrase. Shulman was
> familiar with the college slang of this period. I have not verified
> this citation on paper, so the data may be incorrect. Here is a link:
> In 1925 the Barbasol shaving cream company ran an interesting
> advertisement in The American Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post.
> The phrase "the old, slam-bang, thank-you-ma'ams" was used to refer to
> old-fashioned automobile tires which produced a bumpy and jolting
> ride. The advertisement contrasted these tires with the new balloon
> tires which allowed for a more comfortable riding experience
> Â Here is an excerpt extracted from Google Books archive (not verified on paper):
> The Balloon-tired shave
> All who want to give up the nice, fat, easy-chair balloons and go back
> to the old, slam-bang, thank-you-ma'ams of motoring, stand up! We
> thought so.
> Barbasol smooths out the shaving road the same new, modern, easy way.
> Takes all the ruts and bumps and hairpin turns out of the razor tour.
> I have not verified these citations on paper, but the 1925 date is
> plausible. Here is a date probe showing the front page of the October
> 1925 issue of The American Magazine in the same volume as the
> quotation.
> Here is a date probe showing a page header for the "November 7, 1925"
> issue of the Saturday Evening Post in the same volume as the
> quotation.
> These instances suggest a hypothesis: The phrase may have been shifted
> from the domain of automobiles and tires into a sexual domain and
> assigned a new meaning. Alternatively, it is also possible that the
> advertising copy writers were exploiting a double-entendre. When
> Jonathon Green was editing Cassell's he listed 1940s+ for "wham bam,
> thank you ma'am" in the abbreviated coitus sense. He may have an
> earlier cite in his new slang reference. The publicly available HDAS
> does not reach "w" or "s".
> Garson
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