[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


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."


"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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