[Ads-l] go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess (UNCLASSIFIED)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 16 15:24:02 UTC 2015


Thanks for your responses, and thanks to Stephen for initiating the
discussion. I am not sure when individuals attempting to explain "gone
for a burton" began to mention an advertising campaign. Below are two
examples from 1978 and 1987. In 1978 a letter was printed in an
Australian newspaper. The letter writer remembers the tagline "Where's
George?" which does suggest that he misremembered the advertisement
campaign for Lyon's teashops; however, he also stated that the
advertisements were presented in two phases. He may have been
conflating more than one type of advertisement.

Date: October 23, 1978
Newspaper: The Sydney Morning Herald
Newspaper Location: Sydney, Australia
Section: Letters to the editor
Letter Title: To 'go for a Burton'
Letter From: S. G. Young (ex RAF), Creighton Avenue, Morphett Vale,
South Australia
Quote Page 6, Column 6
Database: Google News Archive

Short link: http://bit.ly/1hFXR9Q

[Begin excerpt]
SIR, The origin of the phrase "Gone for a Burton" (Letters, October
14) is to be found in a huge pictorial advertisement which made its
appearance in London and the counties during the immediate pre-way
years.

The advertisement was a two-phase one; the first part posed the
question "Where's George?" and when sufficient time had elapsed in
which people's curiosity was thoroughly aroused, the answer, "Gone for
a Burton," was added to the advertisement hoardings. The pictorial
part depicted a work-man to whom the question had been put, and the
inference was that his mate had popped out for a quick one and that
the quality of the brew was such as to justify unusual risks, such as
his foreman's wrath and the continuance of his employment, being
taken.
[End excerpt]

In 1987 the columnist William Morris relayed an explanation he had
received from a correspondent about the origin of the phrase "gone for
a burton". The advertisement campaign described was similar to the one
used for Lyon's teashops; hence, this explanation might have been
based on a flawed memory.

Date: August 24, 1987
Newspaper: Toledo Blade
Newspaper Location: Toledo, Ohio
Section: Peach Section
Article: Words...Wit...Wisdom
Article Author: William Morris
Quote Page P1, Column 3

Short link: http://bit.ly/1NbmZCr

[Begin excerpt; please double check for OCR errors]
Now Anthony Bowdler writes: "I believe it possible that I may have
identified a more certain origin for the expression. 'Go for a burton'
was used almost exclusively as a euphemism for being killed in action
or, at best, to be missing in action. It was most characteristically
used in the RAF.

"I distinctly recall a poster campaign in the late 1930s, advertising
a Burton, which was the name of a beer, in much the same way as one
might now refer to 'a Budweiser' The posters would show a group with
someone obviously missing with the laconic legend. Gone for a Burton.
I have little doubt that this was easily translated into common useage
when its alternative meaning was increasingly required."

That examination of the origin of the euphemism strikes me as entirely
plausible.
[End excerpt]

Garson


On Sun, Aug 16, 2015 at 4:51 AM, Michael Quinion
<michael.quinion at worldwidewords.org> wrote:
> Garson O'Toole wrote:
>
>> One explanation offered concerns a U.K. advertising campaign with
>> featuring a missing person. I have found evidence of a campaign of
>> this type in the late 1930s, but it was not for Burton's beer; it was
>> for a restaurant. See further below and click on the link to see the
>> cartoon advertisements in LIFE magazine.
>
> Lyon's teashops were an institution before the Second World War, part of
> the fabric of English life, and continued so for some while after it. I
> vaguely remember being taken to one in London for a special treat about
> 1949.
>
> It seems more than probable that vague memories of these advertisements
> were the inspiration behind the mistaken story about ads for Burton's
> beer. It resolves a loose end rather neatly. Thanks, Garson!
>
> Incidentally, it looks at first from the dating that the ads played on the
> title of a British comedy film of late 1935 about rugby league, "Where's
> George?", starring Sydney Howard and Mabel Constanduros. (Its title was
> changed partway through its run because of the death of George V in
> January 1936.)
>
> But a reference on 24 November 1933 in the Sevenoaks Chronicle of Kent
> about "George" not returning from "Lyonch" and so missing the bus suggests
> the ads predate the film (though no British examples have turned up in
> searches), that the tagline of the Lyons adverts had already become a
> catchphrase, and that the influence was the other way.
>
> --
> Michael Quinion
> World Wide Words
> Web: http://www.worldwidewords.org
>
>

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