[Ads-l] Not on my watch!

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 3 14:30:05 EDT 2017


An ad for the Humane Society of the United States advises that, when you
send a donation, you're saying "Not on my watch!"

I first noticed this phrase as it was uttered by Pres. George H. W. Bush
ca1989. Maybe he picked it up in the Navy. But if so, it couldn't have been
a common utterance. Now, of course, it's an indispensable no-nonsense
cliche'.


Earliest:

1907 _Duluth News Tribune_ (March 17) 4: Jack [a sailor] had started to
meander on his way, but Tom pinched him and stung him a fifty for the bunch
of busted glass. "Not on my watch," says Jack, and the two mixed it.

Oddly, the first apparently literal ex. doesn't appear until 1940:

1940 _Boston Globe_ (Dec. 22) 1 : Mr. Marshall, the second mate, came up on
the bridge to relieve Mr. Edwards. He scowled at Tommy. "This is Tommy
Barnes," said Mr. Edwards. "He's learning to be a sailor." "Not on my
watch, he isn't," said Mr. Marshall. "You better get below, kid."

Then nothing found until:

1983 _Sunday Oregonian_ (Portland) (July 3) 18: Adm. Thomas Hayward,
then-chief [in 1981] of naval operations, soon launched a new policy
allowing "zero tolerance" for drug abuse. He warned users: "Not on my
watch, not in my division, not in my Navy."

And (in a different nuance), quoting Robert Ames, "44, the leader of the
First Interstate Bank of Oregon."

1985 _Oregonian_ (Portland) (Feb. 10) 25: Now we've got people saying that
we need economic development, and when was the last time that happened? ...
Not on my watch."

JL

-- 
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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


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