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Re: How now brown cow

Posted by Smokey Stover on September 22, 2008 at 08:36

In Reply to: How now brown cow posted by Orrin Hamblin on September 22, 2008 at 07:54:

: My mother used the expression "How now brown cow" whenever one of us kids had a new pair of shoes. If memory does not fail me, she used it to call attention to the new shows. Anyone else ever hear the expression used in this or a similar way?

Your mother was making a joke, inspired by your brown shoes. The expression was originally used in teaching elocution, for practicing a particular vowel sound which is often given a rural twist, i.e., "Haow naow braown caow?" It is used somewhat like, "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain," although it's a different vowel sound, and needed in different countries. (Americans don't say spine for Spain.)

From the Wikipedia we learn that it was introduced in the U.S. during (or before) 1942. It remains a popular and well-known phrase, although it is essentially meaningless, except insofar as farmers are able jokingly to greet their brown cows (if they have any--only the brown Swiss is truly brown). And of course it has occasionally been used as a cheerful greeting by members of the lay population--or to call attention to new shoes.