fun with phrases

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 16 14:27:03 UTC 2011

Sorry for the mistake in the first line.


On Sun, Oct 16, 2011 at 10:26 AM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
> "(or, at least,) not any time any soon"
> You can't go through a day of cable news without hearing this
> quasi-ironic sentence-final phrase. It strongly implies "never, or
> probably never," with a suggestion that you'd have to be pretty naive
> to think otherwise. That part may come from the smile and the
> intonation.
> It's a real peeve of mine, - and despite the rumors, I don't have many
> -  because they can't stop saying it, and it wan't very amusing to
> begin with. (Another peeve is "not necessarily."  Any time a TV
> journalist says "not," expect "necessarily" to follow.  But this is
> too hard to search for.)
> GB suggests that the current rage for "not any time soon" began in the
> early '80s. Incredibly (again) it reveals no pertinent 19th C. exx.,
> and only an occasional "not any time soon," mostly with a
> straightforwardly literal meaning, beginning in the '20s.
> JL
> On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 9:07 AM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
>> "I don't believe in labels."
>> 1915 J. D. Beresford _The Mountains of the Moon_ (London: Cassell) 60"
>> "But you are a Socialist?" Lady Downham interposed, almost on a note
>> of expostulation. ... "I believe in a collective purpose," he said,
>> with a touch of brusqueness; "but I don't believe in labels or in
>> cut-and-dried schemes."
>> The phrase turns up in GB now and again, but it isn't common till the
>> '60s, often in discussions of art or politics.
>> In response to questions about their political views, both Robert
>> Kennedy and Ronald Reagan are quoted as saying that they "don't
>> believe in labels."
>> JL
>> On Sat, Oct 8, 2011 at 9:01 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
>>> "It was a * that * would never forget."
>>> One in the '30s. One in the '40s. Lots beginning in the 1950s.
>>> JL
>>> 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."
>> --
>> "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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