fun with phrases

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 8 13:01:23 UTC 2011

"It was a * that * would never forget."

One in the '30s. One in the '40s. Lots beginning in the 1950s.


On Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 4:43 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
> "create one's own reality"
> One infamous quotation of the W years came - allegedly - from Karl Rove in 2004:
> "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And
> while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act
> again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and
> that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all
> of you, will be left to just study what we do."
> Not in YBQ.
> As usual, there are no 19th C. exx. of "create * own reality," though
> Google claims 141,000,000 right now.  Only a 19th C. lunatic would
> have used the phrase.
> Now we get serious:
> 1907 Savila Alice Elkus _The Concept of Control_ [N.Y.: Science Press]
> 88:The problematic judgment is the judgment which states that further
> evidence is necessary in order to determine the truth. The assumption
> upon which the validity of this argument bases, is, of course, the
> 'will for truth' in him who judges, and not the will for action; thus
> in cases where belief or judgment is said to create its own reality
> and thus its own validity, the nature of the decision is immaterial
> from the logical point of view, as any decision whatsoever verifies
> itself.
> 1908 Percy F. Bicknell, in _The Unitarian Register_  (Feb. 6) 147: Why
> need we assume that there is anything in the "force of circumstances"
> to paralyze the will and fetter one's free agency? Let us rather, with
> the Italian pragmatist Papini, exult in our power to create our own
> reality as we go along, and refuse to believe that man is made for
> truth rather than that truth is made for man, and perhaps even by man,
> so far as such belief is not inconsistent with modesty, mother of the
> virtues, and with due reverence for "the power, not ourselves, which
> makes for righteousness."
> 1912 W. H. Hadow, in_Quarterly Review_ (Jan.) 103 : Is the main
> function of art to interpret reality and "paint man man, whatever the
> issue," or to create its own reality by presenting, through a chosen
> medium, some vision of ideal beauty?
> After that, steady occasional use in artistic, psychological, and
> literary contexts until the '60s, when it begins to burgeon. It comes
> into its own in the '70s and just goes wild thereafter, sometimes as
> practical advice.
> Someone might write a thesis on the Elkus-Papini connection, I assume.
> JL
> On Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 6:27 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
>> Great work, G.
>> I recall hearing or reading a variation of the same joke in the late 1950s. I can't recall any of the details, but the gist was the same.
>> "That was then, this is now."
>> In YBQ as the title of S. E. Hinton's 1971 teen novel.  However:
>> 1876 Bertha de Jongh _We are Worldlings_ (London: Bentley) I 30: "He would have been so useful; think how I used to make him fetch and carry — " " Yes ; that was _then_ ; this is now ;" said Jenny.
>> 1911 _American Florist_ (June 21) 1327: Don't go back to stage coach days! ... That was then, this is now!
>> 1920 _Printers' Ink Monthly_ (Feb.) 84: When you used to think of the neighbors, it was only the stone's-throw-folks.... But that was _then_. This is _now_. The Huns changed all that when they crossed the Belgian frontier.
>> Occasional use from then on. Most of the 1970's hits seem to be ads for Hinton's novel.  A flood later.
>> I have a friend who says it frequently.
>> JL
>> .
>> On Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 10:35 PM, Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
>>> Subject:      Re: fun with phrases
>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> "What have you done for me lately?"
>>> This is my candidate for a vogue phrase. I was asked about its
>>> "origin" recently, and I did not think that a phrase of this type
>>> would have an origin. But I may have discovered an important locus of
>>> popularization.
>>> The Google Books Ngram Viewer for the shortened phrase "you done for
>>> me lately" shows a flat line (roughly zero) until the early 1940s and
>>> then a rapid ascent up until the 1970s. There is a dip in the late
>>> 1980s and then another ascent.
>>> What happened in the early 1940s? Versions of the joke below were
>>> printed in important periodicals, e.g., the mass circulation Reader's
>>> Digest. The instance given here was published by Bennett Cerf, the
>>> influential quotation and anecdote collector, in his column in the
>>> Saturday Review magazine.
>>> The wide dissemination of this joke might be coincidental, but I
>>> cannot find earlier examples of the cliché catch phrase. The joke is
>>> an elaborate extended "groaner" in my opinion, but the punch line may
>>> have been new to many readers in 1943.
>>> Cite: 1943 March 13, Saturday Review, Trade Winds by Bennett Cerf,
>>> page 13, Column 2, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Verified on
>>> paper)
>>> A TRAVELER for a big publishing house couldn't wait to get to St.
>>> Louis, where his oldest friend owned a prosperous bookstore. "Sam," he
>>> said to the owner the moment they were alone, "I want you to lend me
>>> $2000.00." "The answer, Joe," said Sam, "is positively no." "But,
>>> Sam," protested the salesman, "In 1929, when Bond and Share broke from
>>> 189 to 50, who gave you ten thousand dollars to keep you from being
>>> wiped out?" "You did," admitted Sam. "And in 1931, when your daughter
>>> Shirley had that tropical disease, who took her down to Florida
>>> because you couldn't get away from business, who did, Sam?" "You, my
>>> friend, you did."
>>> "And in 1933, when we were fishing together, who dove into the rapids
>>> and saved you from drowning at the risk of his own life?" "You did,
>>> Joe. It was wonderful!" "Well, then, Sam, in Heaven's name, why won't
>>> you lend me $2000.00 now when I need it?" "All the things you say are
>>> true," said Sam, nodding his head slowly, "But what have you done for
>>> me lately?" . . .
>>> Garson
>>> On Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 8:48 PM, Ben Zimmer
>>> <bgzimmer at> wrote:
>>> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>>> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> > Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>>> > Subject:      Re: fun with phrases
>>> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> >
>>> > On Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 7:28 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>> >>
>>> >> "Suddenly, the rules had changed."
>>> >>
>>> >> Not usu. "rules" but conditions, common practice, etc. Another dramatic
>>> >> rhetorical cliche'.
>>> >>
>>> >> Nothing in GB before 1991. Nothing in Time archives.
>>> >
>>> > "Plays by his own rules."
>>> >
>>> > Virtually nonexistent before the '70s. The Ngram Viewer shows a big
>>> > jump in the '90s.
>>> >
>>> > --bgz
>>> >
>>> > --
>>> > Ben Zimmer
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> > The American Dialect Society -
>>> >
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society -
>> --
>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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