Monday, February 21, 2011

Housewifery, Ginger, and Slang...oh my!

Yesterday as I was doing some housework I was listening to my CD of "Hits of 1930!" and felt so out of place padding around the house in sweat pants and t-shirt.  The music made me feel as if I should have a housedress on and my hair tied back in a scarf. 

Of course, no self-respecting housewife should be doing heavy housework on a Sunday anyway....that should all be done prior in the week so as to enjoy Sunday off in pursuits of leisure.  Epic fail there on my part.

Well, I did get farther on my knitting yesterday, anyhow.  Maybe Husband will get to wear his Vikings scarf at least once before warm weather comes.  If not, there's always next winter!  (epic fail there too.  argh.)

Ah, well.  I say it's spinach and the hell with it.


Great segue into the next topic, eh? 

On my oldies internet radio station that I listen to, one song that frequently comes on is "I Say It's Spinach" by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, 1932.  the chorus goes

Long as there's you, long as there's me,
Long as the best things in life are free,
I say it's spinach and the hell with it,
the hell with it, that's all!

I just had to look up "I say it's spinach" to see if it was referencing slang of the era, and of course, it is.  It comes from a famous New Yorker cartoon from 1928 of a mother and daughter at dinner.  The mother says, "That's broccoli, dear," and the daughter says, "I say it's spinach and the hell with it."  And so spawned a popular catch phrase for the next several years.

I love finding out the meanings behind old phrases!

Well, I was on a roll then and had to look up more old slang.  This weekend Husband and I watched Kitty Foyle (for the millionth time, but who's counting) but this time we turned on the subtitles.

*note:  if you've never watched a movie with the subtitles/closed captioning on, you're missing out!  You'd be surprised at how much dialogue, especially in the background, is missed.  Sometimes it brings a whole new meaning to the scene.  We usually turn on the subtitles when watching DVDs simply for that reason....but then again, we're weird that way.*

Anyway......there had always been a few words that puzzled me in this favorite Ginger movie o'mine, and the subtitles allowed me to clearly see what was being said. 

One of these phrases is where Mark (the doctor) has just put poor Kitty through the worst cheapest date of her life, playing cards in her apartment.  As he's leaving he asks her on another date.  Kitty, wary of another horrid  cheap date, hesitates before he says he'll pay, and that they would "do it up brown."

A Google search on "do it up brown" gave me this:

.....I have never heard DO IT UP BROWN, but it does appear in many slang dictionaries. In searching newspapers, magazines, and journals, I found lots of examples from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century, but then its use began to diminish. And, in fact, the last example I could fine in mainstream media was from 1983. However, I did get ~ 400 Google hits, which tells us that the expression is still alive (barely) although not favored by newspapers and magazines, etc. I think a reasonable explanation for its near demise is that when the expression BROWN-NOSING (1938) came into its own around the time of WWII, DO IT UP BROWN stopped looking as appetizing used to, and, in fact, BROWN-NOSING was my initial personal guess for DOING IT UP BROWN.
DO IT UP BROWN verb phrase: To do something decisively, thoroughly, excellently, or perfectly; to spare no pains or expense in an endeavor or undertaking; to go all out without scrimping or cutting corners.

Another mystery solved!  For kicks I'm going to start incorporating some of these old golden era slang words and phrases and make everyone look at me funny. 

Because I'm weird that way.


  1. I've started saying "swell!" a lot. :-)

    And housewives from the 30s didn't work 40 hours a week, so cleaning house on Sunday for us is perfectly allowed!

  2. how about beez you got bugs? sure i are, everybody do!


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