[Ads-l] "We must increase our busts!"

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Sun May 31 01:55:32 UTC 2015

I notice that the first line ... uhm, develops, from the dual:
     I must, I must
     Develop my bust  [1965, Pruddon]
to the (my) triple:     I must--I must--I must increase my bust!  [1970, Broderick, NYTimes]
Now that I'm reflecting, I may have heard     I must--I must     Increase my bust  [? circa 1950]
(A more regular rhyme than "Develop my bust.")
      From: ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
 Sent: Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:19 PM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "We must increase our busts!"
Quotation maven Nigel Rees discussed this topic in the January 2015
issue of his newsletter. During a quick search I found a match in a
book by Bonnie Prudden in Google Books with an unverified date of
1965. I also found an instance in an advertisement dated November 2,
1969 in the New York Times Book Review. The ad was for another book by
Prudden. A 1970 cite with an instance of the saying was reprinting the
phrase from the book "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy

Here are some of the variant expressions:

develop our (my) bust(s)
increase our (my) bust(s)
improve our (my) bust(s)

Nigel printed testimony from a woman who believes she chanted a
version. The date was circa 1957.

[ref] 1965, Teenage Fitness by Bonnie Prudden, Quote Page 141,
Published by Harper & Row, New York. (Google Books Snippet; unverified
data which may be inaccurate)[/ref]

[Begin extracted data]
"Actually, that isometric business is like my sister's prayer." He
steepled his hands, bowed his head, and pushing hard with one hand
against the other intoned with fitting solemnity:

I must, I must
Develop my bust,
I must, I must
Develop my bust ...

With howls of glee the others added their voices to the chant.
[End extracted data]

[ref] 1969 November 2, New York Times, Section: New York Times Book
Review, (Advertisement for book by Bonnie Prudden, Advertisement
title: How to Keep Slender and Fit After Thirty, Contact: Bernard Geis
Associates, New York), Quote Page BR31, New York. (ProQuest)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Partial contents of Bonnie Prudden's fabulous book:
. . .
 - The art of walking
 - I must, I must, develop my bust
 - The arm chair ballet - great fun, and great exercise, for everyone
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1970 November 8, New York Times, Section: New York Times Book
Review, The Young Teen Scene by Dorothy Broderick, (Includes review of
"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume), Start Page
BR10, Quote Page BR14, New York. (ProQuest)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
The chant, "I must--I must--I must increase my bust!" accompanied by
the appropriate exercises will evoke in older females memories of
similar experiences.
[End excerpt]

[ref] 2015 May 28, Time, Section: Entertainment, 10 Questions with
Judy Blume, Interviewee: Judy Blume, Interviewer: Eliana Dockterman,
(Appears in June 8, 2015 issue), Time, Inc., New York. (Accessed
time.com on May 30, 2015)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Where did the "We must increase our bust" catchphrase come from?

We all did that. That was just something we knew. I have no idea where
it came from. It was preteen lore.
[End excerpt]

[ref] 2015 January, The "Quote...Unquote" Newsletter, Volume 24,
Number 1, Edited by Nigel Rees, Section: Answers, Quote Page 8,
Published by Nigel Rees. (Obtained via email subscription from Nigel

[Begin excerpt]
A return visit to an old query, never satisfactorily resolved. Where
did this chant or mantra come from?

I must, I must,
I must improve my bust.
The bigger the sweater,
The tighter the better,
The boys depend on us.

Back in Vol. 8, Nos 2 & 3, Robert Rosenberg reported his sister's
variation from the early 1960s: 'I must, I must, I must improve my
bust / Oh dear, I fear, I have overdeveloped my rear!' Celia Haddon
bared all: 'I was doing "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" at
the age of twelve at Queen Anne's School, upper fourth form, in the
dorm at night. In those days I needed the mantra. It must have been
1957. And it must go back further.' Yet we still couldn’t find a
written reference. It appears to have been just a playground chant.
[End excerpt]

Nigel mentioned the musical of Passion Flower Hotel (1965); he thinks
Jane Birkin may have chanted it. But Nigel's phrasing suggested that
this possibility was currently unverified. He also notes that there
was an instance in the 1970 "Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret" by
Judy Blume.

On Sat, May 30, 2015 at 6:08 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:      Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      "We must increase our busts!"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I'd neither heard nor heard of this exercise for girls and what today's
> TIME coyly - and, IMO, incorrectly - refers to as "that catchphrase" -
> isn't it a *chant*? - in its last-page 10 Questions interview of the great
> Judy Blume, before it was discussed some years ago, here on the ADS-L.
> The knowledge that there is a literary reference to this chant motivated me
> to Google it, leading me to a YouTube of Ms. Blume and another woman
> demonstrating the exercise with its accompanying chant.
> Now comes the relevance.
> According to Ms. Blume, the chant is simply,
> "We must! We must increase our busts!"
> In my wife's NE PA dialect, the chant is,
> "We must! We must increase our busts!
>  We must! We must! The boys depend on us!"
> Naturally, anymore ;-), she finds that pretty creepy, but, as a
> ten-year-old, she thought nothing of it, one way or the other, not even
> knowing the meaning of the word, "bust," with any certainty, and with not
> the least idea or interest as to why boys would be depending upon the
> exercise having a positive outcome.
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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

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