[Ads-l] Saying: "I see, " said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 2 14:04:04 EST 2019


There's even a name for this class of sayings (Wellerisms).

Fred Shapiro



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Sent: Wednesday, January 2, 2019 2:39 AM
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Subject: Re: Saying: "I see," said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

An earlier variant first appeared in the British humor magazine, Judy (HathiTrust), and three days later in an English newspaper, and a slightly modified version appearing in several newspapers (newspapers.com) before the end of the year.

"There's a blind carpenter in the West Riding of Yorkshire who, though he can't see a peg, can saw a log."

Judy, September 7, 1870, page 201.

The US versions replace,  "the West Riding of Yorkshire" with "out west."
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Subject: Saying: "I see," said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
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Subject:      Saying: "I see," said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer
              and saw.
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Wilson Gray mentioned the phrase in the subject line in a separate
thread. Amy West and Jonathan Lighter commented. Here are three
citations discovered via a few queries restricted to Newspapers.com
(antedating should be possible).

A match for the first part of the saying appeared by 1842.

Date: October 15, 1842
Newspaper: The Daily Madisonian
Newspaper Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Article: New York Correspondence
Acknowledgement: From the N. Y. Standard
Quote Page 2, Column 3
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Let us see, said the blind man: let us see, for I fear some of us had
a mist before our eyes, a delusion or spell, which is about to be
dissipated.
[End excerpt]

A blind carpenter with a hammer and saw were mentioned by 1890.

Date: October 13, 1890
Newspaper: Morning Journal and Courier
Newspaper Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Article: Remarkable
Quote Page 1, Column 7
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Quite a remarkable thing happened to a blind carpenter the other
day=E2=80=94he took his hammer and saw. =E2=80=94Commercial Bulletin.
[End excerpt]

A wagon maker, blind carpenter, deaf sheep ranchman, noseless
fisherman, and others were mentioned in 1891.

Date: March 11, 1891
Newspaper: Daily Nebraska State Journal
Newspaper Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Article: Newspaper Drift
Quote Page 4, Column 3
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Here is a remarkable case. The other day a wagon maker who had been
dumb for years, picked up a hub and spoke. =E2=80=94Binghampton Republican.

Yes, and a blind carpenter on the same day reached out for his plane
and saw, and a deaf sheep ranchman went out with his dog and herd and
a noseless fisherman caught a barrel herring and smelt, and a defunct
hatter was tenderly deposited on a pile of hair and felt, and a forty
ton elephant inserted his trunk into a grate and flue.
[End excerpt]

Barry Popik has a pertinent entry with a first citation in 1893.

=E2=80=9C=E2=80=98I see,=E2=80=99 said the blind carpenter as he picked up =
his hammer and saw=E2=80=9D
https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.barrypopik.com%2Findex.php%2Fnew_york_city%2Fentry%2Fi_see_said_the_bli&data=02%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40yale.edu%7Ce0a69e0a0e1c43f909a608d6708562b6%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C636820115523624959&sdata=LJ%2BFinAirHcvaYhdJ9KRhGS9FKhoK5f7jwdffE1pDmg%3D&reserved=0=
nd_carpenter/

Garson

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