[Ads-l] "join the circus"?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 7 14:30:05 UTC 2019

Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
> Has anyone looked into the origin of the trope "to run away and join
> the circus" and variants? I've checked in a few places, and aside
> from non-native speakers asking what it means, I can't find any
> discussion of the age of this trope.
> In a very quick glance at Google Books, I found a literal 1883 example:
> 1883 _Peterson's Mag._ Aug. 137/1 Jack knew all about circuses.
> They were his one ambition. He had been to several, before his stay
> with his aunt; been twice since, surreptitiously. "Why can't I run away,"
> he said, "and join this one?"
> But I'm curious when it became a cliche for 'escaping conventional life' etc.

One important tale about running away to join the circus was called
"Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks with a Circus". Wikipedia says it was
serialized in 1877.

Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks with a Circus

Disney released the film "Toby Tyler" in 1960.

There is an 1887 story by Horatio Alger that includes this scenario.

Periodical: The Golden Argosy
Date: June 11, 1887
Serialized Story: The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus
Author: Horatio Alger Jr
Chapter 20

[Begin excerpt]
"Still the public may misjudge me. It will be very awkward to answer
questions about Kit. I really don't know what to say."
"Say he's run away and joined the circus. We might as well tell the truth."
[End excerpt]


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

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