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Two other fellows from Poona

Posted by R. Berg on March 31, 2002

In Reply to: Two Ladies Sick In Poona posted by Catharine Honeyman on March 31, 2002

: My family, in Hawaii since 1899, has been using a phrase for so long we've forgotten where it comes from. When there is a group of people (or more often children) making a dreadful noise, someone will come in and yell, "Two ladies sick in Puna!" and that means Everyone Hush Immediately.

: As we were in Hawaii, it could refer to Puna in Hawaii; if it's Anglo-Indian slang (many white folks in Hawaii at the turn of the last century were English people who had been in India) it could refer to Poona. Has anyone else heard this?

I hadn't heard it, but I found a curiously similar, and probably related, phrase in Eric Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British." Here's the entire entry:

"two other fellows from Poona" or, in full, "it must have been . . . ." A serio-comic denial of association, as, e.g, by one of two men seen drinking together or acting suspiciously: since c. 1910; but after c. 1960, 'from Poona' has often been omitted. It occurs allusively in 'It Mush Have Been Two Other Fellows'--the opening story in Len Deighton's 'Declaration of War,' 1971, with its key passage: 'The Colonel still looked puzzled and Wool said, "Oh, well, it must have been two other fellows, eh?" He laughed and repeated his joke slowly.'The 'two other fellows' in this story were the two soldiers, Colonel and Lance-Corporal of twenty-five years earlier--so different, so (in some ways) superior to their present selves: in short, two other fellows.
'Poona' implies the old Regular Indian Army; a famous station.
Ashley, 1979, gives the US version as 'It wasn't me: it was a couple of other guys'.