[Ads-l] "ribbit" redux

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 15 13:46:24 EDT 2018


Thanks, Garson. The OED entry dates the Smothers Brothers episode to
"c1968," but it looks like it aired on Mar. 26, 1967 (Season 1, Episode 8).

http://www.tv.com/shows/the-smothers-brothers-comedy-hour/season-1-episode-8-191386/
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1052313/

The episode is discussed in David Bianculli's book "Dangerously Funny: The
Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." Apparently they
wanted Tom Smothers, after being turned into a frog, to say "frigget," but
the censors objected.

https://books.google.com/books?id=-aS_vD_lYwEC&pg=PA94
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/20/arts/television/the-smothers-brothers-and-the-birth-of-tv-buzz.html

Here's the sketch in question:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiE40gL3onk

On Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 1:42 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> Here is a slightly earlier citation for the Smothers Brothers instance
> although the text does not directly state that the phrase emerged from
> a frog-like or toad-like entity.
>
> Date: April 17, 1967
> Newspaper: Tampa Bay Times
> Newspaper Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
> Article: Suncoasting
> Author: Marian Coe
> Quote Page 3D, Column 2
> Database: Newspapers.com
>
> https://www.newspapers.com/image/320276262/
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> The Bill Spicklemires are christening a new 36-footer with flying
> bridge the "Ribit" . . . Explaining that one, Bill says they were
> pondering 103 name suggestions other night when they caught the
> Smothers Brothers' show with the gag line "ribit, ribit" . . .
> [End excerpt]
> On Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 1:03 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > https://mentalfloss.com/article/556977/words-and-
> phrases-that-came-from-tv-shows
> > Angela Tung, "10 Words and Phrases That Came From TV Shows"
> > Mental Floss, Sept. 14, 2018
> >
> > This article cites an old ADS-L post of mine on the word "ribbit" as the
> > onomatopoetic sound of a frog.
> >
> > -----
> > http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2005-March/047051.html
> > The OED entry for "ribbit" = 'sound made by a frog' gives a first cite of
> > c1968 from the _Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour_ ("That's right. Ribit! I
> am.
> > I am a frog").  There's a note from the Smothers Brothers program manager
> > saying that he doubted that this was the first use of the word.
> > In a discussion of "ribbit" on the alt.usage.english newsgroup, Donna
> > Richoux found a reference online to a 1965 _Gilligan's Island_ episode
> with
> > Mel Blanc voicing the character of "Ribbit the Frog"...
> > http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/GuidePageServlet/
> showid-599/epid-10123/
> > Gilligan's Island - Water, Water Everywhere
> > Episode Number  14
> > First Aired     January 2, 1965
> > Production Code 0714
> > Writer          Tom Waldman & Frank Waldman
> > Director        Stanley Z. Cherry
> > Guest Stars:    Mel Blanc (as Ribbit the Frog (voice))
> > -----
> >
> > When the OED was revising the "ribbit" entry a few years later, Jesse
> > Sheidlower tried to confirm the 1965 use but didn't find anything
> > definitive, so the Smothers Brothers example is still the earliest given.
> > (In the etymological note it says: "Other sources associate early uses of
> > the term with 'Mel' Blanc (1908-89, U.S. voice actor and comedian), but
> > conclusive evidence has not been found.") Can anyone find confirmation of
> > the Gilligan's Island example from contemporary sources (or any other
> > antedating)?
> >
> > --bgz
> >
>

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