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Re: So I says to Mable

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 15, 2008 at 02:05:

In Reply to: So I says to Mable posted by Cameron on February 13, 2008 at 08:18:

: I would like to know what the origin and the meaning of the phrase "So I says to Mable, I says" is. I have heard it and read it many times before and I am stumped when it comes to the meaning. Please help!!

Like many other expressions, e.g.,"Duh," the immediate source is The Simpsons, a cartoon series on television. In this instance, Matt Groening, the author, has deliberately echoed both the words and the situation of a scene in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby."

I rely on the explanation by JennyX:
"So I says to Mabel I says..." I always wondered where this Simpsons line came from, and after checking, here's where it came from: It's an allusion to the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. 'At one of the parties, Gatsby meets two women already in conversation. We overhear this segment "So I says to Mabel, I says... I'll continue this later." Gatsby and the woman have a quick chat and Gatsby leaves. As he's leaving we hear the line again, "So I says to Mabel, I says..." This is mirrored in the episode, where Bart and Lisa are conversing, and Homer is the interrupter. So I says, to Mabel, I says. . ." See:

As for the meaning of the phrase, it reflects a style of speaking very common in the 1930s, and '40s, and to some degree right up to the present day. The use of the historic present and the repetition of "I says" is a faithful rendering of a likely bit of conversation in the '30s, right down to the use of the name Mabel, not much used these days for naming babies. If you need a more contemporary equivalent, you could say, "So I said to Mabel,...."