"What's that got to do with the price of pickles in Park Slope?"

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 22 17:03:50 UTC 2011

I understand Wilson's claim of artificiality to mean that it was
specifically written for the script and cannot otherwise be found in the
wild. Having said that, I am not sure how this is particularly different
from other unique versions that can be found in print, particularly in

Just a week ago, I sent out a two-parter that looked at "what's that
[got] to do with the price of X" snowclone. While I could only trace
"the price of tea in China" to 1953 (GB only--likely can be pushed
further looking through newspapers), the more general version OED takes
back to 1860 (actually 1848, as the quoted piece is older), and I found
a version from 1832.

The half-century before "tea in China", the X was "eggs":

> "I may be a lunatic," thought John Rodgers, "but what has that to do
> with the price of eggs?"

The earliest, at the moment is,

> "The seven sciences, and reason and experience ?  What the plague have
> these to do with the price of tobacco ?"

There's an even more general version, "What's X [got] to do with Y?",
(where X can be "that" and the "price of" clones are a version of Y),
but the earliest playful versions actual do attempt to tie X and Y
together despite the combination appearing to be a total non sequitur.

The Monthly Mirror. London: March 1808
A Musical Anecdote. [By] Philo-fun. pp. 222-3
Liber facetiarum: Being a Collection of Curious and Interesting
Anecdotes. Newcastle upon Tyne: 1809
[Byline: M. Mirror, p. 222    Philo-fun] pp. 74-5
Polyanthos. Boston: 1812
Musical Anecdote. pp. 319-20
> Much has been said and written on this subject--much more than we are
> disposed to credit; but the following may be depended upon as a fact,
> which took place in London, and was recorded in the Monthly Mirror,
> from which we copy it in the editor's own language.
> When /Yaniewicz /first came into this country,* he lived at the west
> end of the town. One day, after paying several visits, he found
> himself a little out of his latitude, and called a hackney, when this
> dialogue ensued:
> /Coachman.--/(shutting the door) Where to, sir?
> /Yan. /Home--/mon ami/--go me home.
> /Coachman. /Home, sir, where's that?
> /Yan. /By gar, I know no--de name of de dam itreet has /echape, /has
> escaped out of my memory: I have forgot him. Vat shall I do?
> /Coachman. (grins.) /
> /Yan. /Ah ! you are gay--come now--you understand de musique.--Eh!
> /Coachman. /Music--what's that to do with the street.
> /Yan. /Ah ! /rous verrez--/you shall see--(hums a tune)--Vat is dat?
> /Coachman. Mollbrook. /
> /Yan. /Ah ! by gar--dat is him--Marlbro'-street--now you drive-a me
> home. Eh!
> This is a fact. We have often heard that '/music hath charms/' to do
> many clever things, but this is, I believe, the first time of its
> instructing a hackney coachman where he was to set down.

[* Some versions have England, others--"went to London". The first
paragraph is absent in the original, which has a longer introduction.]

Apparently, the joke was so good, it had been repeated in print for the
next 40 years on both sides of the Atlantic.


On 10/22/2011 10:39 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> On Oct 21, 2011, at 3:41 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>  From Law&  Order. Probably artificial.
> what does "artificial" mean in this context?  this is either a playful variation on the "price of tea in China" expression or an instance of a Price of X in Y snowclone (developed from the tea-in-China version), and like many occurrences of playful variations and snowclones, it was intentionally devised by a user.  how does that make it "artificial"?  (what would a non-artificial example be like?)
> arnold

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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