"say uncle" antedated (?) to 1887

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Jan 7 16:58:00 UTC 2012

One of the proposals for the origin of "say uncle" (OED: "to acknowledge defeat, to cry for mercy")
is a 1890 joke about a parrot urged to say that.

If the following is interpreted in the idiomatic sense, then the 1890-attested joke would be antedated:
Dr. Martin: "Give one of the symptoms of shock." Senior: "A cold, flabby sweat."
R. F. Drake wonders why the little fellow doesn't learn to say "uncle."....

The Michigan Argonaut, Oct. 29, 1887, vol. 6, no. 4,  p. 34 col. 3.

Stephen Goranson

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

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