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Re: Etchings

Posted by R. Berg on January 30, 2002

In Reply to: Origin of "Want to come up and see my etchings?" posted by Phillip Cline on January 30, 2002

: How did the phrase "Want to come up and see my etchings?" become the double entendre that people use today? Was it part of some comedy routine? Who started it?

Speculation about its origin is found in Eric Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases":

"'Come up and see my etchings' was, perhaps, orig. a US students' catchphrase that rapidly gained a much wider currency: throughout the US, thence in Can. and UK and, prob. indicative of US influence in 1943-5, Aus. Formerly I suspected that it was prompted by [Mae West's] 'come up and see me sometime!'; yet it could well have been the other way about. In his letter . . . Prof. S. H. Monk writes: "I am certain that I knew this sentence by the midtwenties. Actually I knew no one who had a collection of etchings or who was suave enough to seduce a young thing in this manner. But the phrase certainly floated in and out of cartoons and jokes. To me, it has an 1890-ish or Edwardian tone, and I suspect that it existed in 'sophisticated' urban society before it ever reached me. I think that this can still sometimes be heard, but it is definitely 'corny'."
Perhaps confirmatory of Prof. Monk's shrewd remarks is the fact that in Susannah Centlivre's comedy, 'The Man's Bewitched' , Act III, where Belinda, Maria, Constant and Lovely are in the study, and Lovely exclaims, 'Interrogating! Nay, then 'tis proper to be alone; there is a very pretty Collection of Prints in the next Room, Madam, will you give me leave to explain them to you?' Maria answers, 'Any Thing that may divert your Love--Subject.'
It should, however, be noted that this catchphrase perhaps derives from Surreyside melodrama--the villain enticing the innocent maiden."