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

By Eric Partridge; Paul Beale | Go to book overview

W

wagging.

See: end is a-wagging.


wagons roll!

'“Let's get started!” Popularised by the TV series Wagon Train in the 1950s' (Sanders, 1978). By the late 1970s, slightly ob.


waist.

See: nothing below; should be sawn.


wait.

See: hurry up and w.; time and tide; we want eight; will you have; and:


wait and see!

Although prob. used twenty or thirty years earlier, it became a gen. c.p. in March-April 1910 when Asquith employed it in ref. to the date for the reintroduction of Lloyd George's rejected budget. Asquith was himself, 1910 onwards, called Old Wait and See and, on the Western Front, 1914-18, French matches, so often failing to ignite, were called wait-and-sees. Eric Partridge, A Covey of Partridge, 1933.


wait for baby!

'Said by someone who is late (not dilatory) in making his appearance. Meaning: “Please wait for me-I'm slow but I'm trying to catch up with you”' (Dr George D. Herving, New Jersey, via A.B., 1979): US: since (?) c. 1950.


wait for it!

-properly, the phrase is rapidly repeated, as in the Coward quot'n below. If it derives from the army's wait for it!, wait for the word of command (e.g., to fix bayonets), it dates, as a c.p., since the latter part of WW1; if, however, it has a music-hall origin, the c.p. may go back to late C19.

In Red Peppers, written c. 1935 and pub'd in 1936, Noël Coward offers-immediately after 'Refrain 1' in the first dialogue, this vastly convenient example:

GEORGE: I saw a very strange thing the other day.

LILY: What was it?

GEORGE: Twelve men standing under one umbrella and they didn't get wet.

LILY: How's that?

GEORGE: It wasn't raining. (Wait for it-wait for it.)

That is, wait for the laughter to end before you resume the dialogue.


wait for your round!

A theatrical c.p. of very approx. 1880-1940: Michael Warwick, in an article entitled 'Theatrical Jargon of the Old Days' in the Stage, 3 Oct. 1968, says:

Actor-proof parts could always be recognized by the number of laughs or rounds of applause in any given scene, and the term 'wait for your round' is dated as the Dodo. But in the old days anyone killing a 'round' by coming in too quickly with their lines came in for some crushing criticism.

The same principle applied to laughs.


wait till the clouds roll by!

Inducive of optimism: 1884, Ware tells us; by 1915 it had become proverbial. Ware also tells us that it came 'from an American ballad'; and Ashley, 1979, suggests a conflation of two lines from the old song, 'Wait till the sun shines, Nellie,/And the clouds go rolling by'.


wake.

See: don't wake; spends; you'll wake.


wake up and smell the coffee!

Of this US c.p., J.W.C. wrote, 1968: 'Not, I think, in origin an advertising slogan. A derisive way of saying “You're dreaming” or “You're not facing the facts” or “You might as well be asleep”. Fifteen or twenty years old, I should say, though possibly much older.' Perhaps, however, prompted by various aromatic-chromatic advertisements by coffee manufacturers.


wake up at the back there!

'Jimmy Edwards in Take It From Here. Frank Muir comments: “This was a line I always used in writing Jim's schoolmaster acts. It was technically very useful in breaking up his first line and getting audience attention.” Bob Monkhouse adds: “Jimmy Edwards's roaring admonition 'Wake up at the back there!' had everything I felt a gilt-edged catchphrase should have. It was perfectly in character and it arose naturally from Jimmy's actual wrath with a sullen audience. It was short, funny in any setting and useful-the kind of all-purpose joke-saving line beloved of comedians who hate to hear a subtle gag go down in silence.” Jim: They laughed at Suez but he went right ahead and built his canal-wake up at the back there!' (VIBS).


wake up, England!

is a 'c.p. used by anyone cross with himself for not seeing at once something fairly obvious. Var.: “Wake up [name], England needs you”' (P.B., 1974).

In 1911, there appeared a timely reprint of a speech that King George V had made, in Guildhall, on 5 Dec. 1901, on his return from a tour of the Empire (ODQ). Both his speech and the reprint, like the warnings of Robert Blackford, Kitchener, Winston Churchill, and others, were blandly ignored by the purblind politicians of the day: behaviour ever more stupidly duplicated during the 1930s.

P.B.: In lona and Peter Opie's The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, 1959, it is recorded as one of the phrases used to greet-and deride the bearer of-stale news.


wakey, wakey!

Lit., as used in C20 by Services' non-coms, it obviously isn't a c.p.; but it inevitably became one. Deriving from the nursery, it was orig. neither tender nor affectionate, despite its intentionally heavy irony when it was used by those good-humouredly bossy fellows.

Since c. 1945, it has, partly because popularized by the band-leader Billy Cotton (1900-69) in his radio and TV Band Show, been very widely used figuratively in civilian contexts and not necessarily by ex-Servicemen: where the persons addressed merely seem to be asleep or are extremely slow in moving along or in getting something done. An elaborated version (I must admit that I never heard it in the army, 1940-2, nor in the RAF, 1942-5) was

Wakey, wakey, rise and shine!
Don't you know it's morning time?

P.B.: Cotton, whose Band Show ran from 6 Feb. 1949 almost continuously until his death, put an enormously cheerful, strident vulgarity into the phrase, which he used to open the show (VIBS tells why): 'wakey-WAkey!' But it may sometimes be used more gently, e.g. to someone a bit 'dozy'

-328-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Introduction to the First Edition x
  • Modifications of the Original Introduction xii
  • Acknowledgments to the First Edition xiv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvi
  • Acknowledgments to the Second Edition xix
  • Abbreviations xxi
  • A 1
  • B 25
  • C 42
  • D 60
  • E 79
  • F 85
  • G 96
  • H 114
  • I 136
  • J 178
  • K 181
  • L 186
  • M 200
  • N 212
  • O 228
  • P 240
  • Q 251
  • R 253
  • S 261
  • T 289
  • U 323
  • V 326
  • W 328
  • X 360
  • Y 361
  • Z 384
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