23 (1899)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Mar 8 15:03:10 UTC 2007

Good work, Barry. That beats me by two or three years.

  It is also the earliest mention of the Sidney Carton theory.  It sounds absurd, and so it may be, but it is possible that a stage version of the story ended with the fatal number being intoned.  Thus it would come to mean "the end" or "curtains" to irreverent whippersnappers.  Of course it could be just a coincidence.

  Worth looking into.

Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Bapopik at AOL.COM
Subject: 23 (1899)

There's a Jim Carrey movie with this title. I haven't seen it.
17 March 1899, The Morning Herald (KY), pg. 4:
For some time past there has been going the rounds of the men about town the
slang phrase "Twenty-three." The meaning attached to it is to "move on,"
"get out," "goody-bye, glad you are gone," "your move" and so on. To the
initiated it is used with effect in a jocular manner.
It has only a significance to local men and is not in vogue elsewhere. Such
expressions often obtain a national use, as instanced by "rats!" "cheese it,"
etc., which were once in use throughout the length and breadth of the land.
Such phrases originated, no one can say when. It is ventured that this
expression originated with Charles Dickens in the "Tale of two Cities." Though the
significance is distorted from its first use, it may be traced. The phrase
"Twenty-three" is in a sentence in the close of that powerful novel. Sidney
Carton, the hero of the novel, goes to the guillotine in place of Charles
Darnay, the husband of the woman he loves. The time is during the French
Revolution, when prisoners were guillotined by the hundred. The prisoners are beheaded
according to their number. Twenty-two has gone and Sidney Carton answers to
-- Twenty-three. His career is ended and he passes from view.

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