[Ads-l] Follow-up: Quote: Elementary, My Dear Watson

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 24 18:48:49 UTC 2016

Great thanks to Christopher Philippo, Amy West, and George Thompson
for their helpful responses, I've updated the QI entry and
acknowledgement; the entry now includes the September 1893 and the
November 1891 citations.

On Sat, Jul 23, 2016 at 6:43 PM, Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:
> On 7/21/16 12:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
>> Date:    Wed, 20 Jul 2016 12:27:04 +0000
>> From:    Christopher Philippo<toff at MAC.COM>
>> Subject: Re: Follow-up: Quote: Elementary, My Dear Watson
>>> >The most Holmesian phrase - "Elementary my dear Watson" - is never
>>> > uttered in the books. Gillette is perhaps the man who did most to bring it
>>> > in, although he never used the exact phrase.
>>> >In the play he wrote the line: "Elementary my dear fellow." Others
>>> > subsequently swapped "fellow" with "Watson".
>>> >PG Wodehouse is often credited with this swap in his spoof novel Psmith.
>>> > But the Oxford English Dictionary queries this.
>>> >It seems that the term was already being used in newspapers before
>>> > Wodehouse's 1915 novel. So some uncertainty remains as to who coined it.
>>> >Conan Doyle included the term "elementary" in Holmes's deductive
>>> > vernacular. He also included "my dear Watson". But never in the same
>>> > sentence.
>>> >It seems that Gillette almost put the two together. And others later
>>> > finished the job. The line, "Elementary my dear Watson" probably became
>>> > famous when the talkies came in - it was used in The Return of Sherlock
>>> > Holmes in 1929, which starred Clive Brook.
>> de Castella, Tom. "William Gillette: Five ways he transformed how Sherlock
>> Holmes looks and talks." BBC News Magazine. January 26,
>> 2015.http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30932322
>> "[William Gillette] credited as the first person to coin the phrase,
>> 'elementary, my dear Watson,' regardless of the fact that the idiom, in its
>> complete form, does not appear in any published version of the play."
>> Hayes, Paul Stuart. "Introduction." The Theatrical Sherlock Holmes. Hidden
>> Tiger [Lulu.com], 2012.
>> 8.https://books.google.com/books?id=Z6ARBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA56
>> "Elementary my dear fellow!  Elementary!"
>> Gillette, William. Sherlock Holmes: a play, wherein is set forth the
>> strange case of Miss Alice Faulkner. Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1935.
>> https://books.google.com/books?id=--4EAQAAIAAJ&q=%22Elementary,+my+dear+fellow%22
>> "William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes (audio +
>> video)"https://youtu.be/AklHzlu0KCc?t=2m20s  [1936 audio of Gillette saying
>> "Elementary my dear fellow!  Elementary!"; video of Gillette from 1916 film]
> The film is based on his play. (Saw the film this past January at Arisia . .
> . ) It's not in any of the titles for the film?
>> It would be nice to find evidence of Gillette using the line in his 1899
>> play, perhaps from a review.
> Is there a script available? Perhaps via Gillette Castle in CT?
> ---Amy West
>> Though not Sherlock Holmes, this is curious:
>> "All of this is quite elementary, my dear 'Fellow of the Chemical
>> Society.'"
>> Luis. "Letters to the Editor: The Natural Forces." English Mechanic and
>> World of Science 58(1487). September 22, 1893.
>> 108.https://books.google.com/books?id=X0ZCAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA108&dq=%22elementary+my+dear%22
>> By September 22, 1893 there had been two Sherlock Holmes novels and
>> twenty-one or twenty-two stories.  I'm not sure if there was a Sherlock
>> Holmes play predating September 1893 which the above letter might have been
>> riffing; one by Charles Rogers is variously reported to be from 1892, 1893,
>> or 1894.  Or perhaps the phrase could have appeared in the caption to one of
>> the illustrations of Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand - but if so, one
>> would expect fans to have noted that long ago.  Is the use of "elementary my
>> dear fellow" in 1893 when Sherlock Holmes' popularity was growing simply a
>> coincidence?  Or was the phrase in some form potentially somehow a cliche
>> even before Sherlock Holmes was created in 1887?
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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