[Ads-l] winner, winner chicken dinner (1991)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 18 00:06:06 UTC 2017

Barry Popik has turned up a 1990 cite for the variant "winner, winner,
chicken for dinner," now added to his entry here:


16 August 1990, Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal, “Dealer’s Choice” by Janne
Hanrahan, Best Bets, pg. 11, col. 2:
And while I have no idea where we got the popular call of Winner, winner,
chicken for dinner, I know this must be old. When was the last time that
chicken for dinner was a luxury only winners could afford?

It's a good question... chicken for dinner hasn't been a luxury for quite a
long time. Are there cites between Peter's "chicken tonight" in 1900 and
Barry's "chicken for dinner" from 1990 that can fill in the gap?

On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 11:26 AM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Link was bad in my earlier e-mail which I sent from my phone which
> sometimes corrupts my messages.
> Here's a better link, and an excerpt from my post:
> Baby Shoes, Calico dresses, African Golf and Crabs - a Dicey History and
> Etymology of "Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes!"<https://esnpc.
> blogspot.com/2014/10/baby-shoes-calico-dresses-african-golf.html>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Craps players have chanted, “Baby needs a new pair of shoes,” for more
> than one hundred years:
> Played Craps on a Train.
> Stark Bell, Patrick Gallagher, John Thompson, Vincent Garcia and John
> Fernando, arrested Saturday for playing craps on a train from the Tanforan
> racetrack, appeared before Judge Conlan yesterday.  The charges against
> Gallagher and Fernando were dismissed and the others were continued till
> to-day.  Special Officers Kindelon and Madden, who made the arrests,
> testified that they saw the game being played, but instead of saying “Come
> seven; come eleven,” they said, “Baby needs a pair of new shoes,” “If I win
> I’ll eat chicken to-night” and “The attorney’s fees must be paid.”  About
> sixteen of the players jumped off the train to escape arrest, although it
> was running at the rate of sixteen miles an hour.
> The San Francisco Call,  March 27, 1900, page 4.  The phrase, "[i]f I win
> I'll eat chicken  to-night," may also presage another ubiquitous gambling
> phrase; "winner,  winner, chicken dinner!"
> [End excerpt]
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Ben
> Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Sunday, July 16, 2017 6:56:52 AM
> Subject: winner, winner chicken dinner (1991)
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      winner, winner chicken dinner (1991)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> -------------------
> "Winner, winner chicken dinner" is the subject of this piece by Kotaku
> that's making the rounds:
> https://kotaku.com/the-origins-of-battlegrounds-winner-winner-chicken-din-
> 1796870568
> That in turn quotes a 2009 article from Deadspin:
> https://deadspin.com/5304961/scoring-at-home-your-
> sportscenter-catchphrase-o-meter
> "In an e-mail, David Guzman, an author of _A Guide to Craps Lingo from
> Snake Eyes to Muleteeth_, writes: "'Winner Winner Chicken Dinner' came from
> alley craps back in the Depression. They used to play craps in alleys and
> didn't always use $$$, but if they did it use $$$ and they where winning,
> it meant they they could afford chicken for dinner that night.' The
> literature on the subject is limited, however, and Guzman allows that
> 'Winner winner chicken dinner' may have roots in Cockney rhyming slang."
> While the phrase does appear to originate as the call of a stickman in
> craps, there's no evidence that it goes back to the Depression era, or that
> it's from Cockney rhyming slang. We previously discussed this in 2008, with
> examples from 1997 (on Usenet):
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2008-May/081783.html
> Barry Popik took it back to 1995 (also on Usenet):
> http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/
> winner_winner_chicken_dinner
> Here it is in print from 1991.
> https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/145313660/
> Asbury Park (NJ) Press, Nov. 24, 1991, p. 70
> "Dealers' chants pump up players"
> "So, when the action's heating up, you'll hear the stickmen go into their
> routines: You got a Wager, Major; Gotta Hunch, Bet a Bunch; Bet a Chunk,
> Win a Hunk; Bring a Buck and a Truck; Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner; Six,
> Easy Six, Bet the Eight, Running Mate; Shooting the Don't, Says he Won't;
> Four, Trey, the Country Way, and And on and on."
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Ben Zimmer

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list