Phrase: none of your funeral (antedating 1850 July 6) also shift in semantics

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 10 15:50:30 UTC 2011

Laurence Horn wrote
>> Later adapted for that 60's zombie pop hit, "It's my funeral and I'll
>> come if I want to"

Jonathan Lighter
> Seriously, my schlock-gefuehl suggests that the phrase may have originated
> as the punch-line of some now forgotten jest.

JL raises the possibility of a joke-based origin for the meaning of
one of the funeral phrases. That hypothesis seemed plausible to me
when I was reading the July 6, 1850 citation (repeated below) for the
phrase "none of your funeral". Here are some possibilities. (I am
probably not using the proper terminology.):

Cite: 1850 July 6, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Odds and Ends, Page 3,
Column 2, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)

A queer remark was made by an urchin of five
years, who had lost a sister by death, to a neigh-
bor who was a tending the funeral. "What
are you crying for?" said the little fellow to the
latter, who was weeping, "its none of your

1) The article is repeating a joke that has existed for some time.
This joke (or a similar quip) was responsible for creating the meaning
attached to the phrase "none of your funeral".

2) The article is disseminating the joke for the first time and is
initiating the process of creating the attached meaning. This text was
reprinted in multiple newspapers.

3) The sense is already connected to the phrase via some other unknown
mechanism, and the article is playing with this established meaning.


The American Dialect Society -

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