[Ads-l] Wordplay: Sliding down a banister / barrister

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 24 16:58:08 EST 2022


Way back in 2010 Fred Shapiro asked about wordplay which is usually
attributed to the notable wit Dorothy Parker.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2010-July/101021.html

Researchers had already uncovered an ascription to Parker in Alexander
Woollcott's 1934 book "While Rome Burns". A couple years ago I found
two antedatings. Now, the Quote Investigator website has an article:

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2022/01/24/barrister/

The earliest match appeared within a column published in the “Daily
News” of New York City which paid teachers for comical items
inadvertently penned by students:

[ref] 1933 January 18, Daily News, $2 for Classroom Boners, Quote Page
26, Column 3, New York. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
The News will pay $2 for every Classroom Boner published.
A Boner is a humorous expression found in examination papers, etc., by
school teachers. Boners must be original. And they must be funny. . .
.

Billy has a bad habit of sliding down the barristers.
Mrs. A. E. MORTIMER.
88-24 189th St., Hollis, L. I.
[End excerpt]

In June 1933 gossip columnist Mark Barron attributed an instance to
Dorothy Parker:

[ref] 1933 June 12, The Wilkes-Barre Record, A New Yorker At Large by
Mark Barron, Quote Page 8, Column 4, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
(Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
This time she doesn't plan to drop in on London. “The last time I was
in England,” she quipped, “I spent the whole time sliding down
barristers.”
[End excerpt]

The previously known citation appeared in the 1934 book of critic and
radio broadcaster Alexander Woollcott titled "While Rome Burns" which
included a chapter about Parker containing a different instance of the
joke:

[ref] 1934, While Rome Burns by Alexander Woollcott, Chapter: Some
Neighbors: IV: Our Mrs. Parker, Quote Page 149, Viking Press, New
York. (Verified with hardcopy) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Then I remember her comment on one friend who had lamed herself while
in London. It was Mrs. Parker who voiced the suspicion that this poor
lady had injured herself while sliding down a barrister.
[End excerpt]

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole
QuoteInvestigator.com

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


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