1961 article on teen slang

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Sep 14 18:25:29 UTC 2007

On 9/14/07, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at csli.stanford.edu> wrote:
> On Sep 14, 2007, at 9:22 AM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> > "Grody" and "murgatroid" are interesting additions to the list of
> > synonyms for "square, n." I've only seen "grody" as an adjective
> > (OED/HDAS 1965), and then with more of a "gross" than "square" sense.
> > "Murgatroid/Murgatroyd" I suppose is just a funny-sounding name like
> > "Poindexter". Cassell's Dictionary of Catchphrases notes that Bing
> > Crosby says "Very good, Murgatroyd" to Bob Hope in Road to Bali
> > (1952), long predating Snagglepuss of "Heavens to Murgatroyd" fame.
> Snagglepuss first appeared in 1959; when was "Heavens to Murgatroyd/
> Murgatroid!" first uttered?

Don Markstein's Toonopedia says:

The character's best-remembered catch-phrase ("Heavens to Murgatroyd")
was also from [Bert] Lahr, who used it in Meet the People (1944),
where he played a supporting role under stars Dick Powell and Lucille

Ah, Fred Shapiro got there first, of course:

> i suppose the question is whether "Murgatroyd" had any currency as a
> characteristically silly name before Snagglepuss made it famous.

It certainly did. Perhaps most famously, vaudeville comedian Billy De
Wolfe played a running character named Mrs. Murgatroyd, described in
one article as "a middle-aged matron with tender feet and an armload
of shopping bundles who drops into a cocktail bar to rest." It started
as a pantomime character in 1939 in De Wolfe's nightclub act and
became a national sensation when De Wolfe played the character in the
1947 film "Blue Skies".

Here's an early example of Murgatroyd as a humorous vocative, perhaps
influenced by Mrs. Murgatroyd in "Blue Skies":

1947 _Washington Post_ 2 Feb. S4/1 "Tricks for Teens" You're putting
extra color into your lives -- and your wardrobes -- with packaged
dyes. ... Quick, Murgatroyd, the sun glasses.

--Ben Zimmer

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list