After a longish period of ad hoc reading and note-making (with, since, a continual 'spare-time' reading) I began to write, not merely compile, this dictionary in September 1973 and completed the writing almost exactly two years later.
I have been deeply interested in catch phrases ever since during the First World War when, a private in the Australian infantry, I heard so many; in both Slang Today and Yesterday and, 1937 onwards, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, I have paid them considerable-and increasing-attention. Moreover, as I have always read rather widely in American fiction and humour, I did not start from scratch in that vast field.
But I could not have adequately treated either the catch phrases of the United States or those of the British Commonwealth of Nations without the constant, faithful, extraordinarily generous assistance of friends and acquaintances and pen-friends. In the list of acknowledgments, I have named all the more copious and helpful-at least, I like to think that I've done so. Probably there are a few unforgivable omissions; I can but ask forgiveness.
There are, however, three acknowledgments, in a different order of things, to be made right here. I have to thank Newsweek for permission to quote a long passage from an article by the late John-son of Ring-Lardner; and Mr Edward Albee for his unqualified permission to quote freely from his perturbing and remarkable plays, so sensitive to the nuances of colloquial usage. In yet another order, I owe a very special debt to Mr Norman Franklin, who has, a score of times, saved me from making an ass of myself and, several score of times, supplied much-needed information.
The Introduction is intentionally very brief: I don't pretend to an ability to define the indefinable: I have merely attempted to indicate what a catch phrase is, there being many varieties of this elusive phenomenon; a phenomenon at once linguistic and literary-one that furnishes numerous marginalia to social history and to the thought-patterns of civilization.
Finally, a caution. I have, although very seldom, written an entry in such a way as to allow the reader to see just how it grew from a vague idea into a certainty or, at least, a virtual certainty.