Posted by Bob on November 27, 2004
In Reply to: BREAD & BUTTER posted by R. Berg on November 27, 2004
: : : : I've always done this....but can' remember the why.
: : : : Walking hand in hand with someone...and then something comes between us(like a pole or a person)and we have to let go of hands.....Then I say to the other person I am with,"bread and butter" and then they are to say toast and jam. does anyone know or do this too?
: : : : (~.~)
: : : Ooh...Ooh! You have awakened a deeply buried childhood memory. I, aged about 5 years, am watching animated cartoons on TV. In the cartoon, factory workers, mostly animals wearing human clothing, are leaving work at the end of their shift. As they pass the new shift arriving each one says "bread and butter" in a weary, monotonous voice. That's it. This always seemd to be the punchline of a joke I didn't get. I still have no idea what it means.
: : : The cartoons I am talking about are 1930's era Merry Melodies and Disney type products. The world was in the grips of the depression then, and maybe there was some sort of joke in circulation having to do with government relief efforts or union activities. I've waited my whole life for someone to raise this question. I anxiously await the answer.
: : I've read an explanation of the "bread and butter" custom that went like this: It's symbolic. Bread and butter belong together. When butter's on bread, there's no space between them. So, when an obstacle in the path has separated two persons walking together, they say "bread and butter" on reuniting, to acknowledge that they're together again. This simple ritual is related to a fear of abandonment. The companions are reassuring each other that they didn't intend to leave.
: : I learned it as just "bread and butter" without "toast and jam."
: The link below goes to the Word Detective's discussion. "Bread and butter" is low on a long page.
I remember clearly being mystified as a child by that Warner Bros. cartoon of the two leopards (or panthers?) pacing in their cage. There was a center post, so they were "separated" by it every few seconds. The dialog: "Bread and butter." "Bread and butter." "Bread and butter." I didn't get the joke, so I asked my mother, who remembered and explained the ritual from her childhood, circa 1910, eastern Pennsylvania.