[Ads-l] "ribbit" redux

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 15 17:03:44 UTC 2018

Angela Tung, "10 Words and Phrases That Came From TV Shows"
Mental Floss, Sept. 14, 2018

This article cites an old ADS-L post of mine on the word "ribbit" as the
onomatopoetic sound of a frog.

The OED entry for "ribbit" = 'sound made by a frog' gives a first cite of
c1968 from the _Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour_ ("That's right. Ribit! I am.
I am a frog").  There's a note from the Smothers Brothers program manager
saying that he doubted that this was the first use of the word.
In a discussion of "ribbit" on the alt.usage.english newsgroup, Donna
Richoux found a reference online to a 1965 _Gilligan's Island_ episode with
Mel Blanc voicing the character of "Ribbit the Frog"...
Gilligan's Island - Water, Water Everywhere
Episode Number  14
First Aired     January 2, 1965
Production Code 0714
Writer          Tom Waldman & Frank Waldman
Director        Stanley Z. Cherry
Guest Stars:    Mel Blanc (as Ribbit the Frog (voice))

When the OED was revising the "ribbit" entry a few years later, Jesse
Sheidlower tried to confirm the 1965 use but didn't find anything
definitive, so the Smothers Brothers example is still the earliest given.
(In the etymological note it says: "Other sources associate early uses of
the term with 'Mel' Blanc (1908-89, U.S. voice actor and comedian), but
conclusive evidence has not been found.") Can anyone find confirmation of
the Gilligan's Island example from contemporary sources (or any other


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list