Query: "Let George do it"

Sam Clements SClements at NEO.RR.COM
Sun Nov 9 19:38:49 UTC 2008

Fred Shapiro posted the earliest cite, 1909, a comic strip by the famous
George McManus in _The New York World_.

There is a reply to Fred's find, by Stephen Goranson, that there exists a
song title by November of 1909.  I'm pretty sure it came from the comic, but
that's just my opinion.

Sam Clements

----- Original Message -----
From: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2008 13:20
Subject: Query: "Let George do it"

> Yesterday I received a query about the expression "Let George do it."
> Might anyone in ads-l have any insight into it?  Below my signoff is the
> query I received and my preliminary reply.
> G. Cohen
> ________________________________
> From: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Sent: Sat 11/8/2008 10:21 PM
> To: Jvrobins at aol.com
> Subject: RE: "Let george do it"
> Mr. Robinson,
>   I hadn't worked on this expression before, so I just checked J. E.
> Lighter's authoritative _Random House Historical Dictionary of American
> Slang_, vol. 1, under "George".  The first example is from 1910, and none
> of the several examples cited mention anything about a black Pulman porter
> named George. And the 1918 example says "...the mysterious George...,"
> indicating that the poeple close to the start of the expression (or at
> least its first written attestations) had no idea who the original George
> of the expression was.
>    I also checked Eric Partridge's _A Dictionary of Catch Phrases_, which
> gives a paragraph about "let George do it," including the observation that
> it derives from the synonymous French "laisser faire à Georges", which he
> says "goes back a long way."
>    But Partridge's etymologies are known to be often very unreliable, and
> so nothing he says about "let George do it" can be taken at face value. It
> has to be checked out.
>    There are also some items about "let George do it" on Google.  I
> checked one, but it included no information about a black Pulman Porter
> "George.".
>     Tomorrow I'll check with the American Dialect Society's internet
> discussion group; there are some very knowledgeable poeple there
> (including Jonathan Lighter).  Meanwhile, if you have any evidence that a
> black Pulman Porter named "George" likely does lie behind the expression,
> I'd be curious to hear of it.
> <snip>
> Gerald Cohen
> ________________________________
> From: Jvrobins at aol.com [mailto:Jvrobins at aol.com]
> Sent: Fri 11/7/2008 11:21 PM
> To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Subject: "Let george do it"
> Professor Cohen,
> Archie Green suggested I contact you.  In your career as editor of COE
> have you ever run across the word "George" used to describe Pullman
> Porters, as in "Let George do it"?
> I am interested in the use of the phrase "Let George do it" refering to
> black Pulman Porters.
> Regards,
> John Robinson
> Las Positas College
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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