Phrase: the old, slam-bang, thank-you-ma'ams (automobile tires circa 1925 probably)
george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Jul 8 17:54:21 UTC 2011
In the late 1940s/early 1950s, my mother would call an unexpected dip or
rise in the road -- the sort of irregularity that gives the sense that the
body and the stomach are moving in opposite directions -- a
"thank-you-ma'am". This connects with "the ruts and bumps and hairpin
turns" in Garson's post.
I don't recall whether she explained it to me -- I rather have the
impression that crossing this sort of dip might give riders (an excuse for)
catching hold of each other.
Mother was born in central Mass. in 1900, and no doubt remembered travelling
On Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 3:05 AM, Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>wrote:
> 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. 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
> 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
> Here is an excerpt extracted from Google Books archive (not verified on
> 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
> 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
> 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".
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ.
Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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