[Ads-l] "Only When I Laugh!"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 10 18:06:30 EST 2018

Here are some earlier instances in the U.K. (London) and the U.S.A. (Boston).

The instance below appeared in the "Daily Mirror" of London in
September 1939. The tall tale about the Zulu War was presented by a
columnist. The story was attributed to a "tough-sergeant-major who
professes to have seen service in three wars". The military man was
talking to a "new recruit". An assegai is a spear.

Date: September 23, 1939
Newspaper: Daily Mirror
Newspaper Location: London, England
Column: Cassandra
Column Section: No Apologies
Quote Page 8, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com
Database: British Newspaper Archive

[Begin excerpt]
The air was black with them assegaies that they were chuckin’ at us.

Suddenly, my chum, Bert, gets one of them clean through his gizzard.
Nailed him proper. I fights on.

Suddenly, I hears old Bert letting out a couple of yelps if he wasn't
feeling too good, so I says:

"What's the matter, Bert—does it hurt much?"
Yes, son, that was a tough war, that was!
[End excerpt]

The U.K. story moved to the U.S. by August 1942. In the passage below
an "old colonel" was speaking about the Zulu War.

Date: August 14, 1942
Newspaper: The Boston Globe
Newspaper Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Article: Tickled (Filler Item)
Quote Page 12, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
"Gad, sir," said the old colonel at the club, "the Zulu War was much
worse than this one. Why, I remember the time when a Zulu threw his
spear at me and it pinned me to the ground. I was lying there for
three days."
"It must have hurt."
"Not much," said the colonel.
"Only when I laughed:"—Tit-Bits.
[End excerpt]


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list