A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

By Paul Beale; Eric Partridge | Go to book overview

K

Kaiser.

See: 'alf a mo; hang the K.


Kamerad!

See ONE-WORD CATCH PHRASES.


kangaroos in (one's) top paddock;

esp. he has…his…. To be very eccentric or extremely silly; to be crazy: Aus.: C20. Wilkes quotes the Australian Magazine, 1 Nov. 1908, 'If you show signs of mental weakness, you are either balmy, dotty, ratty or cracked, or you may even have white ants in your attic or kangaroos in your top paddock'; S.J. Baker lists it in 1947; Dal Stivens employs it in one of his stories, 1946. By 1970, it had become ob. Perhaps because, at times, to jump about like persons restlessly nervous. P.B.: or simply an inventive Aus. var. of the synon. Brit, bats in the belfry.


keep.

See: fetch; I'd rather k.; I'm keeping; if this keeps; it's being so; you'll keep.


keep a cow.

See: why buy a book.


keep 'em barefoot and pregnant!

'Semi-proverbial recipe for marital happiness…[an example of] masculine callousness towards women-now, happily, all but extinct' (R.C., 1978): since c. 1915. Cf catch 'em young


keep him (or it) in: he'll get pecking if let out

is a low, mostly N. Country c.p. addressed to a man with his flies open: late C19-20. A pun on cock; cf the US sense of pecker. In the US, 'Sometimes followed, or displaced, by The barn door is open…dating back to the 1930s, at least' (A.B., 1978). Clearly rural in origin, it prob. goes back to late C19.


keep it clean!

and, later, keep the party clean! The former, since the early 1920s and ob. by 1960; the latter, since c. 1930. Don't talk smut or tell dirty stories; don't act loosely or indelicately. A correspondent, c. 1965, commented thus: 'But the speaker often does not quite mean it. “Give me my hat and knickers, she said, “I thought you were going to keep the party clean.”'

The first form is, in US, 'far from obsolescent, though the variant “Let's keep it clean” is a good deal commoner. Almost always, jestingly, used especially when one has inadvertently used a double entendre' (J.W.C., 1977).


keep it dark!

Keep it secret: underworld: c. 1830-70. Cited in The Vulgar Tongue, by 'Ducange Anglicus', i.e. John Camden Hotten, in 1857; this little-known work amounted to a 'trial run' for The Slang Dictionary, 1859. See also hush!


keep it dark!,

and cf keep that under your hat.

In the US, 'sometimes “keep jark!”-from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer' (A.B., 1978). Ob. by late 1970s. This jark is something of a mystery: just possibly a rhyme on keep it dark, or perhaps going back to Brit, jark it (see Underworld).


keep it on the deck!

and keep it on the Island (or, later, island)! are synon., the former RN only, the latter RN in orig. and gen. in usage.

The former, C20; the latter, since c. 1895. 'Naval football supporters' cry when the ball goes too often into touch' (Granville, for deck); and for Island, Granville remarks that 'When football matches were played on Whale Island, Portsmouth, in the old days, the ball occasionally went into the water when it found touch.' On 17 Jan. 1944, Frank Butler, in the Daily Express, spoke feelingly of 'That monotonous “Keep it on the island” when the ball is banged into the grandstand to clear a dangerous position'.


keep moving!

See: push on, keep moving.


keep off the grass!

Be careful!; Be cautious!-often in playful sexual ref. to a male paying attention to a girl regarded by the speaker as his own property: late C19-20; by 1960, ob.; and by 1970, virtually †. Orig. it was proletarian. It derives from notices in parks and elsewhere.


keep on smiling!

See: keep smiling!


keep on truckin'!

As the Salvation Army puts it, 'Keep on keeping on': since the 1930s. Basically 'Keep moving!' Ben Grauer, on Christmas Day 1975, explained it as 'Keep on doing what you're doing; especially, encouraging or approving a vigorous or self-assertive action'; he adds, 'Originated by Negro dancers and spread to Whites.' US: it derives from the name of a dance popular in the 1930s. Writing to me in 1974 and 1975, Norris M. Davidson and Joseph T. Shipley say it is a phrase. 'Comes from the great marathon dance contests that were a part of our 1930s scene, when all the partners clung to one another, half-asleep, but on and on moving around the dance hall through the night, like the great trucks that go endlessly across our continent through the dark hours, as they “keep on truckin”' for the prize' (Shipley, 1975).

'Little used by educated people, even in their relaxed moments; I think they merely regard it as vulgar and tiresome… I should classify it as merely (voguish and probably evanescent) slang…. Current among the vulgar and the young' (J.W.C., 1975). And later in 1975, John Browning, US citizen, London bookseller, two-worlds poet, classified it as (having become) a hippies', as well as a teenagers', c.p.

J.W.C., writing on it again in 1977, noted, 'pace Davidson and Dr Shipley, far from obsolescent', a point confirmed by Paul Janssen, 1978: 'My Californian pen friend John H. Escalona…used it to conclude his letter of May 23. He adds, “Not considered vulgar among young relaxed, hang-loose Americans”. (John is 23.)'

But Eric Townley, 1978, disagrees with the orig. proposed above: 'Truckin' was a song written for the “Cotton Club Parade of 1935” by Ted Koehler and Marty Bloom and the dance was originally at the Cotton Club, but soon became very popular with Negro dancers generally. All that about marathon dances is incorrect, as Truckin' was a fast-tempo dance which could not be performed by anyone half-asleep; and, by that time (1935), marathon dances had, I am reasonably sure, died out. Later, the word truckin' was used was used for any sort of lively dancing.'

A notable example of its post-1970 usage occurs in Cyra

-181-

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