issues; the X from Hell

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Dec 9 17:21:40 UTC 2006

the latest Funny Times (Dec. 2006) has an excerpt (p. 18) from Jon
Winokur's Encyclopedia Neurotica (2004), with two items  of local

1. the entry:

Grade-A _psychobabble_ for what used to be called "problems."

2.  an entry on the comedian Richard Lewis, who claims to have
originated the phrase "the BLANK from Hell" and has been attempting
to get credit for this in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (a campaign
depicted in the "Nanny from Hell" episode of the tv show Curb Your
Enthusiasm).  the wikipedia entry says that Bartlett's rejected the
proposal, claiming that "the phrase was a common idiom prior to
Lewis' use of it".

meanwhile, Fred Shapiro's Yale Book of Quotations (p. 458) attributes
the self-description "comedian from hell" to Lewis, but only as the

   Earliest documented example of the expression “from hell”
referring a person.

(very carefully worded, Fred!)


The American Dialect Society -

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