I’m back to inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace, using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent researches.
Sarah C. asked:
“When and where did the term ‘doggie bag’ (as in bringing home leftovers from a restaurant) originate?”
It is fascinating that you ask this, since I have long used “doggie bag” as my example of how historical dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary can shed light on the history of things as well as the history of words. The OED cites the following as its first two illustrations of “doggie bag” and related terminology:
“It’s a pleasure to hand this beautiful Doggie Pak to your patrons To Take Home Bones For Their dog… Printed in three colors… It’s class.”
-American Restaurant, Sept. 1952
“More and more restaurant meals are going to the dogs, if stepped-up demand for the ‘Doggy Bag’ is any indication.”
Huronite & Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota), July 7, 1957
Jason Kernan asked:
“I’ve always wondered where “close but no cigar” came from.”
“Close, but no cigar” is widely used to signal a near miss. The earliest instance of its use anyone has found is in the 1935 film Annie Oakley, which has the line “Close, Colonel, but no cigar!”
Why a cigar? The reference appears to be to a carnival game of strength (the “Highball” or “Hi-Striker”) in which the contestant hits a lever with a sledgehammer to try to drive a weight high enough up a column to ring a bell at the top. The standard reward for ringing the bell is a cigar.
Do any readers have any other phrases or quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?