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Re: Topsy" I just growed

Posted by Masakim on March 08, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Topsy" I just growed posted by ESC on March 08, 2004

: : Does anyone know the origins of this phrase?

: It is from a quote by Topsy in "Uncle Tom's cabin, or Life among the lowly" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. SparkNotes.com describes the character: Topsy - A wild and uncivilized slave girl whom Miss Ophelia tries to reform, Topsy gradually learns to love and respect others by following the example of Eva.

: I googled and found this regarding the quote but I can't guarantee that's exactly what she said:

: "I s'pect I just growed. Don't think nobody never made me."

St. Clare's daughter Eva becomes friends with the young slave girl Topsy, and the novel recounts a conversation between Topsy and St. Clare's cousin Ophelia:
"Have you ever heard anything about God, Topsy?" The child looked bewildered, but grinned as usual. "Do you know who made you?" "Nobody, as I knows on," said the child, with a short laugh. The idea appeared to amuse her considerably; for her eyes twinkled, and she added, "I spect I grow'd. Don't think nobody never made me." [Chapter XX]
Given the astounding popularity of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (at the time of its publication it outsold every book previously published in the U.S. except the Bible), legions of readers were charmed by Topsy's declaration that she just "growed." Soon "it growed like Topsy" had become a popular figure of speech to describe something that grew or increased by itself, without apparent design or intention, and by 1885 Rudyard Kipling was explaining to a correspondent that "I have really embarked ... on my novel.. Like Topsy 'it growed' while I wrote." Today "grow like Topsy" is most often heard in criticism of bureaucratic institutions or government budgets, for whose bloated sprawl and inefficiency no one is eager to take credit.
From "The Word Detective" (April 27, 2002)
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Its every detail shows it to have "just growed," like Topsy, and to have achieved an unpredicted and unpredictable balance after ages of trial-and-error development. (Bryant & Aiken, _Psychology of English_)