[Ads-l] "...would you hold it against me?"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 7 05:38:38 UTC 2023

Interesting topic, Ben. An instance of the same wordplay appeared in
an Australian newspaper in 1938, but the punchline was delivered by
the woman instead of the man.

Date: February 07, 1938
Newspaper: The Daily Telegraph
Newspaper Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Supplement: Daily Telegraph Home Magazine
Article: (Single-Panel Comic)
Author: George Little
Quote Page 16, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com


[Begin excerpt]
"What would you do if I criticised your figure?"
"Oh, I wouldn't hold it against you."
[End excerpt]

In 1941 the English comedian Max Miller published the joke in a London

Date: March 23, 1941
Newspaper: Sunday Dispatch
Newspaper Location: London, England
Article: Max Miller
Author: Max Miller
Quote Page 4, Column 7
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
That girl was smart.
I remember I said to her once,
"What would you think if any chap criticised your figure."
"Well," she said, "I wouldn't hold it against him."
[End excerpt]

Quotation researcher Nigel Rees included an entry on this topic in his
2001 reference "Cassell's Humorous Quotations". Nigel mentioned the
connection to Max Miller.

[ref] 2001, Cassell's Humorous Quotations, Compiled by Nigel Rees,
Section: Chatting up, Quote Page 75, [Cassell, London], Sterling Pub.
Co., New York. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
If I said you had a nice body would you hold it against me?

Anonymous (graffito). Included in my book Graffiti 3 (1981). Taken,
presumably, from the Bellamy Brothers song . . .
Among a selection of jokes by Max Miller, the English comedian
(1895-1963), published in the Sunday Dispatch (no date) and collected
in Benny Green, Last Empires (1986) is: 'I saw a girl who was proud of
her figure. Just to make conversation I asked her, 'What would you do
if a chap criticised your figure?' 'Well,' she said, 'I wouldn't hold
it against him.'
[End excerpt]

It might be possible to antedate the 1938 citation with a snippet
match in Google Books. The following match has a GB year of 1934. I
cannot determine the actual date, but it might be circa 1935.

Year: 1934 (According to GB, but search for 1935 indicates some issues
occurred in 1935 or later)
Periodical: Petroleum Engineer
Volume 6
GB Page 101
Database: Google Books Snippet (Metadata may be inaccurate and must be
verified with scans or hardcopy)


[Begin excerpt]
He: What would you do if a fellow criticized your figure?
She : Oh, I wouldn't hold it against him
[End excerpt]

Garson O’Toole

On Wed, Sep 6, 2023 at 7:07 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> The old pick-up line "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it
> against me?" is often attributed to Groucho Marx from his time hosting "You
> Bet Your Life." Stereogum writer Tom Breihan recently made that attribution
> in a column about the 2011 Britney Spears song "Hold it Against Me," though
> he acknowledged he couldn't find any evidence of Groucho using the line.
> https://www.stereogum.com/2234566/the-number-ones-britney-spears-hold-it-against-me/columns/the-number-ones/
> As Breihan notes, David Bellamy, who wrote the 1979 country song "If I Said
> You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me" for the Bellamy
> Brothers, recalled picking up the line from "You Bet Your Life," according
> to the Wikipedia page for the song.
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_I_Said_You_Have_a_Beautiful_Body_Would_You_Hold_It_Against_Me
> I don't know how accurate Bellamy's memory is, but versions of the line
> predate Groucho's hosting of "You Bet Your Life" (on radio 1947-50, on TV
> 1950-61). And I don't see any attribution to Groucho before 1979, the year
> the Bellamy Brothers song came out.
> Here are a few early cites (Reader's Digest was an early popularizer,
> though not the originator)...
> ---
> https://archive.org/details/N028035/page/136/mode/2up
> _Analecta_, Central Collegiate Institute (Calgary, Alberta), June 1945, p.
> 136
> Oh! Hoh! -- "Honey, if I told you that you had a lovely shape, would you
> hold it against me?"
> ---
> https://books.google.com/books?id=v2qRs6XHnfAC
> _Reader's Digest_, Apr. 1948, p. 128, "Spiced Tongue"
> Boy to beautiful girl, "If I told you that you have a gorgeous figure,
> would you hold it against me?"
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-south-sioux-city-mail-would-you-hold/131354803/
> South Sioux City (Neb.) Mail, Sep. 29, 1950, p. 2, col. 3
> Boy to beautiful girl, "If I told you you have a gorgeous figure, would you
> hold it against me?"
> ---
> https://archive.org/details/choochoo19511951haml/page/58/mode/2up
> _Choo-Choo_, Hamlet (N.C.) High School, 1951, p. 59
> Bernard, to beautiful girl: "If I told you that you have a gorgeous figure,
> would you hold it against me?"
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/article/star-tribune-would-you-hold-it-against-m/131354197/
> Minneapolis Tribune, Aug. 29, 1951, p. 14, col. 1, "Mr. Fixit Says"
> If a salesman approaches a young lady by saying, "If I told you that you
> had a beautiful body, would you hold It against me?" what should she say?
> ---
> Here's the earliest Groucho Marx attribution I've found:
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-philadelphia-inquirer-groucho-hold-i/131346468/
> Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 10, 1979, p. 3, col. 1
> In the grand tradition of the late Groucho Marx who used to ask young
> women, "If I told you you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against
> me?" we bring you Christopher Harris, who hugs total strangers for a living.
> ---
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list