Posted by R. Berg on November 25, 2001
In Reply to: "You make a better door than a window" posted by Dave on November 25, 2001
: My mother used this phrase anytime I blocked the view of the television. I understand
: However, the word order is odd. After she passed away, I set about to find the source of her
: favorite phrase, to no avail. I travel about the USA as a trainer, and use it as an 'ice-breaker' many
: weeks. The phrase is fairly well known, but with no particular regional correlation. I suspected it to
: be a 'literal translation' from her native Polish-language childhood, or possibly a chatch-phrase
: from a depression era radio show (the history of her other favorite saying, 'now you're cooking with
: gas', was explained to me by an older neighbor once).
: Google has a few pages with some informal
research similar to my own, but nothing definitive.
: I have no reference library to draw upon, and would appreciate the help of the many wise and
: experienced word-smiths on this site.
: PS: If you find it on a website, I will add that link to my home page.
: ...thx. Dave @travelin-tigers
From Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":
"'you make a better door
than a window.' Addressed to a person obstructing the light: US (Lester V. Berrey
and Melvin Van Den Bark, "The American Thesaurus of Slang," 1942) and New Zealand
(Sidney J. Baker, "New Zealand Slang," 1941), both since c. 1920 at latest. Cf.
'is your father a glazier?'
John B. Smith, 1979, recalls an English version: 'you make a very good door, but a very bad window.' Prof. John W. Clark, 1977, doubts that the phrase was ever very much used in US."
Comments: Prof. Clark was wrongedy-wrong-wrong. Nothing in Partridge's account suggests a Polish origin. I don't find the word order so odd. Compare "Gluten flour makes better bread than cake."