[Ads-l] the Good News Bad News joke routine

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 28 04:35:11 UTC 2019

I looked briefly for citations. After finding several, I found a page that discusses the issue: 

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/258235/origin-first-known-use-of-the-phrase-ive-got-some-good-news-and-some-bad-news <https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/258235/origin-first-known-use-of-the-phrase-ive-got-some-good-news-and-some-bad-news>

Here are some earlier citations that possibly set the stage for the good news/bad news joke.

1. Shakespeare 
Antony and Cloepatra
https://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/shakespeare/antony-and-cleopatra/page_104/ <https://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/shakespeare/antony-and-cleopatra/page_104/>

Though it be honest, it is never good
To bring bad news. Give to a gracious message
An host of tongues, but let ill tidings tell
Themselves when they be felt.


2. http://tinyurl.com/yy246bkd <http://tinyurl.com/yy246bkd>
The king's mail, Volume 3
Henry Holl
1863 (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011697436 <https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011697436>)

She had a medley of ill news, good news, bad news, capital news, all jumbled and huddled together in an impossible heap.


But Polly's good and bad news were not done yet; ….


2. Here is a collection of proverbs from European languages.
Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages: Classified Subjectively and Arranged Alphabetically, Volume 2
Robert Christy

Bad news is the first to come.   _Ital._


No news is good news.   _Fr., Ital._


For the first, I found a handful of Googits for "La notizia buona vola lentamente quella cattiva rapidamente.”

For the second
French: Pas de nouvelles, bonnes nouvelles 
Italian: Nessuna notizia, buona notizia

Whether these influenced English, at least the idea was circulating in Europe.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

> On 27 Jun 2019, at 18:18, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
> wondering about when it became a formula, as part of a look at a Rhymes With Orange strip in which two cartoon memes (Desert Island and Grim Reaper) are combined:
> 6/27/19: The Desert Island Reaper:
> https://arnoldzwicky.org/2019/06/27/the-desert-island-reaper/
> (the good news is that a boat is coming to the desert island; the bad news is that it's being steered by the Grim Reaper)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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