[Ads-l] "Say Uncle" - slight antedating

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 13 14:12:15 EDT 2017


Correction: An uppercase "U" was used for "Uncle" in all three instances.

[Begin excerpt]
"Say 'Uncle,' you beggar!"—DR. PHOSPHATE.
[End excerpt]

Garson

On Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 2:08 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Good work, Peter. The joke appeared as an untitled filler item in "The
> Weekly Irish Times". No connection with "anacol" was mentioned, but
> 'Uncle' was enclosed in quotation marks (single quotes or double
> quotes).
>
> Date: June 20, 1891 Saturday
> Newspaper: The Weekly Irish Times
> Newspaper Location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
> Article: Untitled short item
> Quote Page 1, Column 2
> Database: British Newspaper Archive
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> A GENTLEMAN was boasting that his parrot
> would repeat anything he told him. For example,
> he told him several times, before some friends, to
> say "Uncle," but the parrot would not repeat it.
> In anger, he seized the bird, and twisting his neck
> said, "Say 'Uncle,' you beggar," and threw him
> into a fowlpen in which he had ten prize fowls.
> Shortly afterwards, thinking perhaps he had
> killed the parrot, he went to the pen. To his
> surprise he saw nine of the fowls dead on the floor,
> with their necks wrung, and the parrot standing
> on the tenth twisting his neck and screaming
> "Say 'uncle,' you beggar!"—DR. PHOSPHATE.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> On Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 1:12 PM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
>> "Say Uncle" was discussed here in 2012. http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2012-January/115472.html
>>
>>
>> Garson O'Toole pointed to a Wordorigins.org<http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/say_uncle/> piece and WorldWideWords.org<http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-say1.htm> piece which both cited a joke published in the Iowa Citizen (October 9, 1891), which, in turn, credited a source called "Spare Moments."
>>
>>
>> Garson also cited an earlier example of the joke from the Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1891, page 3, column 4.  That article also cited Spare Moments.
>>
>>
>> WorldWideWords identified Spare Moments as a London weekly of the period.
>>
>>
>> I checked the British Newspaper Archives and found several examples that antedate the LA Times article.
>>
>>
>> I do not have full access to the archive, so I only poorly digitally transcribed text snippets.
>>
>>
>> The earliest is from Weekly Irish Times (Dublin, Republic of Ireland), June 20, 1891, page 1.
>>
>>
>> The joke appears a week later as part of a Prize Joke Competition in the Burnley Express (Lancashire), June 27, 1891, page 3, and again at the end of July in the Waterford Mirror and Tramore Visitor (Waterford, Republic of Ireland), July 30, 1891, page 4.
>>
>>
>> Beginning in September 1891, the joke appears in numerous newspapers throughout Britain.
>>
>>
>> The Irish origin might be interesting since WordOrigins.com notes that a traditional explanation of the expression relates it to the Irish word "anacol," which apparently means mercy or quarter.
>>
>>
>> It seems that the expression took root in America as a result of the joke, which was published dozens of times for more than two decades before the earliest known example of the expression used outside the context of the joke.  Might the original joke in Ireland been a pun of sorts?
>>
>>
>> The full text of the original might shed light on the matter.  It might also answer whether the joke originated in 1891 or was merely a publication of an old joke.
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


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