Thank you ma'am; Kiss me (bump or dip in road)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 14 13:39:39 UTC 2011

On Jul 14, 2011, at 7:21 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> The only printed reference to "padiddle" that I can recall seeing was in the
> National Lampoon around 1980.  I'd never heard of the game, so the passage
> made no sense to me.
> At all.
> JL

I should confess that I hadn't heard of padiddles when I was in NYC in the 50s; it was when I was an undergrad in Rochester in the early 60s that I was introduced to the "game".  Of course in New York it would have probably had to be a subway car with a headlight missing, which I don't think entitles anyone to kisses, slaps, or other activities normally prohibited in subway cars (spitting, smoking, ball-playing?).


> On Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 11:17 PM, David A. Daniel <dad at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       "David A. Daniel" <dad at POKERWIZ.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: Thank you ma'am; Kiss me (bump or dip in road)
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> My parents, both of them born and raised in Indianapolis, taught me
>> padiddle
>> when I was a kid in the 50's in California. Guy says it first, he gets to
>> kiss the girl. Girl says it first, she has her choice of punching, kissing,
>> or whatever else she may want to do. My version of bread and butter, also
>> learned from my Hoosier parents, is: a) Bread and Butter, b) split in two,
>> a) a piece for me, b) a piece for you. This of course means that speaker a)
>> ends up with both pieces. I only picked up Jinx from my daughter about 10
>> ago. Her version, learned from English-speaking friends in Rio de Janeiro:
>> jinxed person cannot speak until someone says the jinxed person's name.
>> Padiddle story: when I lived in England in the 80's, I was driving along,
>> at
>> night, with a Brit colleague as passenger, and I mentioned: "You know, in
>> the US we have a game, called padiddle." And I explained the deal about
>> seeing a car with one headlight. And then continued: "I mention this
>> because
>> here I never see a car with one headlight." Brit said: "Well, yes. It's an
>> offence." His attitude was that "Of course, if it is an offence, it doesn't
>> happen." Pretty funny.
>> DAD
>> : Re: Thank you ma'am; Kiss me (bump or dip in road)
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ---
>> The "kiss from any handy female" bit reminds me of "padiddle" (which I
>> understand is sometimes transcribed "perdiddle", a natural variation since
>> it seems to be a Northeast (NY, NJ) tradition.  If a male and female are
>> driving down a road at night and the former spots a car with just one
>> headlight on he calls "padiddle" and gets to kiss the latter.  If the
>> latter
>> identifies the padiddle first, she gets to slap him--or, on another variant
>> I recall hearing although I never experienced it myself, she gets to either
>> slap or kiss him, as she chooses.  My memory of padiddles goes back to the
>> early 60s in the NYC and Rochester areas.  It didn't turn into
>> slam-bam-thankyou-ma'ams, it just kind of faded away, even though padiddles
>> (the cars, not the tradition) can still be seen.
>> Just checking the web, I find this account from Grant, not dissimilar to
>> what I recall:
>> ec=lifefocus<>
>> LH
>> On Jul 13, 2011, at 8:03 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>>> Jonathan Lighter wrote
>>>> The HDAS files have several exx. in addition to that from 1890.  The
>>>> documentation of "wham-bam, thank you ma'am" as a sexual allusion,
>> however,
>>>> does not begin until the WWII era.
>>>> My understanding (from God knows where) is that the early custom
>> (ca1890)
>>>> was that when a wagon hit a bump in the road, any male involved could
>> demand
>>>> a kiss from any handy female. Hence the "Thank you ma'am!"
>>>> But it culd be BS.
>>> This message continues a discussion of "wham-bam-thank-you ma'am!" by
>>> focusing on the phrases "thank you ma'am" and 'kiss me." First, thanks
>>> to Wilson Gray, George Thompson, Dan Goncharoff, Jonathan Lighter,
>>> Robin Hamilton, and Victor Steinbok for comments on the thread called
>>> "Phrase: the old, slam-bang, thank-you-ma'ams (automobile tires circa
>>> 1925 probably)"
>>> The OED (2nd edition) has an entry for "thank-you-ma'am" that includes
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