Quote: What fresh hell can this be? (antedating Dorothy Parker - probably 1970)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jul 19 08:56:47 UTC 2010

The challenge is to antedate the 1988 date for the following Dorothy
Parker quotation: What fresh hell is this?

There is a close variant of the quotation attributed to Parker in a
book dated 1970 by Google Books. The same book is referenced by the
Yale Book of Quotations and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations using
the 1970 date. I will try to check it on paper in the coming days.

Circa 1970, You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy
Parker by John Keats, GB page 124, Simon and Schuster, New York.
(Google Books snippet view; Not verified on paper; Citation may be
inaccurate; Worldcat agrees with date; Oxford and Yale Quotation books
cite this book with a 1970 date)

If the doorbell rang in her apartment, she would say, 'What fresh hell
can this be?' — and it wasn't funny; she meant it.


A similar expression is used sardonically in 1928 by famed New York
newspaper columnist Oscar Odd McIntyre.

1928 June 29, Olean Times, "New York Day by Day" by O. O. McIntyre
Olean, New York. Page 5, Column 1. (NewspaperArchive)

There's an idea—bathtub bookracks. More entire glass building fronts.
What's become of feather boas? Brass sign. "Pituitary Science." What
fresh hell is that? A plump dowager without a yapping Peke.

Plus for a limited time only a free bonus quotation:

1906 July 8, Anaconda Standard, News Values, Page 4 Part 2 (NArch Page
24), Column 2, Anaconda, Montana. (NewspaperArchive)

But journalism proverbially is fertile in expedients and when there is
no fresh hell to serve, it does the next best thing and dishes up some
warmed-over hell.


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

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