Quote: Meretricious and a Happy New Year (1930 December 6)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 10 19:28:45 UTC 2010

Pretty funny. "That was only my wife" is undoubtedly correct.

In junior high in 1961 I was told of aGreek whose tailor had returned his
trousers with a small tear in them.

Returning them to the tailor shop, he raged, "Euripides pants, Eumenides

See, back then we'd at least heard of  Euripides and the Eumenides (not the
rock group).  I heard the joke from a fellow twelve-year-old.


On Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 1:36 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Quote: Meretricious and a Happy New Year (1930 December 6)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On BBC radio in the 1970s an interviewer once told Gore Vidal that his
> novel Lincoln was meretricious, and he responded:
> Really? Well, meretricious and a happy New Year to you too!
> This repartee is recorded in an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of
> Humorous Quotations (2008) that traces the pun back to a "NBC radio
> show starring the Marx Brothers, Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel, in
> 1933" and "Franklin P. Adams in the 1930s".
> Here is an excerpt from a Walter Winchell column in 1930 that mentions
> members of the Algonquin Round Table and includes the pun. Perhaps
> some list member can help with the interpretation of one of the puns
> in the passage that is based on Arizona.
> Cite: 1930 December 6, Wisconsin State Journal, On Broadway by Walter
> Winchell, Page 3, Madison, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)
> Making up sentences with certain words still remains one of the most
> amusing parlor pastimes. They were cleverly toying with puns again
> last night. The name of Sessue Hayakawa came up and someone remembered
> how Woollcott once used: "Hayakawa keep 'em down on the farm?" And F.
> P. A. clowned with Theopholis, viz: "That was Theopholis book I ever
> read!"
> Then this: "That was no lady. Arizona my wife!" And: "She drinks
> Anticipates terribly!" It was decided, too, that the most famous is
> "Sanctuary much for the buggy ride," and that one of the cleverest
> contains the word Meretricious—like this: "Meretricious and a Happy
> New Year!"
> However —  Dorothy Parker's sentence with the word "congeal" is our
> favorite silly. Dorothy uses it this way: "Jack congeal went up the
> heel."
> Here is my interpretation for Arizona and the rest. Alternative
> suggestions are welcome:
> Arizona: there was only, that was only, it was only.
> Hayakawa: how you gonna; Theopholis: the awfulest;; Anticipates: and
> dissipates; Sanctuary: thank you very; Meretricious: Merry Christmas;
> Congeal: and Jill.
> F.P. A. probably refers to Franklin P. Adams. The initials are given
> as E. P. A. in one instance of the newspaper column and F. P. A. in
> another instance. I think E. P. A is a misprint.
> Garson
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