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Re: Stay too long at the fair

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 21, 2009 at 22:01

In Reply to: Re: Stay too long at the fair posted by Baceseras on January 21, 2009 at 16:12:

: : : : : : : What's the origin of: 'stay too long at the fair'?

: : : : : : I couldn't find it in my references. I think the origin comes from staying too long at the once-a-year carnival, county fair, etc., to the point a person is dazzled and unsatisfied with ordinary life. But a search online gave another meaning, "don't stay too long at the fair," quit when you're ahead.

: : : : : ---------------------------

: : : : : ........ and possibly before you upset the folks back home - including a worried / suspicious girlfriend. There's an old song (too chintzy to be called a folksong, more a children's song):
: : : : : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny's_So_Long_At_The_Fair. Dated 1770s in the UK, 1790s in US.

: : : : I thought there was a song -- searched lyrics + stay too long at the fair. Didn't find anything.

: : : "Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?" sung by Barbra Streisand circa 1963 written by Billy Barnes.

: : I googled "too long at the fair"+"lyrics" found two songs. There is a Bonnie Raitt song and a Barbra Streisand song with similar titles but different lyrics. Both question whether they have stayed too long at the fair.

: : There is also a line in Tom Waits' Downtown Train that goes "They stay at the carnival, but they'll never win you back".

: : So, if you stay too long at the fair or carnival you're just sad and pathetic and you didn't get a kiss or the brass ring.

: Or, like a child past the fill-level for pleasurable stimulation, the surfeit of fun turns you cranky, irritable, vaguely dissatisfied ... should have left an hour ago and carried the good feeling away with you: now, instead, you've stayed too long at the fair ....

This is what the Wikipedia says:

"Johnny's So Long at the Fair" is a traditional nursery rhyme that can be traced back as far as the 1780s in England.[1] Also known as "What Can the Matter Be?", there are several variations on its lyrics. The following are given as the traditional lyrics (being chorus and verse) in Cuddon's and Preston's A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory:[2]


O dear, what can the matter be?
Dear, dear, what can the matter be?
O dear, what can the matter be?
Johnny's so long at the fair.

He promised he'd buy me a fairing should please me,
And then for a kiss, oh! he vowed he would tease me,
He promised he'd bring me a bunch of blue ribbons,
To tie up my bonny brown hair.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny's_So_Long_At_The_Fair

The reason for the anxiety expressed by the words "What can the matter be?" is implicit in the words.

The Wikipedia points out that there are several variants and other versions, and prints a few verses of a song I sang in college, a parody of the original, and sung to the same tune.


Oh, dear, what can the matter be,
Seven old ladies were locked in the lava'try,
They were there from Monday till Saturday,
And nobody knew they were there.

The first old lady was 'Lizabeth Porter,
She was the deacon of Dorchester's daughter,
Went there to relieve a slight pressure of water,
And nobody knew she was there.

The second old lady was Abigail Splatter.
She went there 'cause something was definitely the matter.
But when she got there, it was only her bladder,
And nobody knew she was there.

I can add a third and fourth lady, as follows:

The third old lady was Lady Jane Doyle,
She hadn't been living according to Hoyle,
But she was relieved to find it was a boil,
And nobody knew she was there.

The fourth old lady was Millicent Bender,
She only went in to adjust her suspender,
It snapped up and injured her feminine gender,
And hobody knew she was there.

I haven't compared these to the Wikipedia's source. Perhaps sometime I shall. Meantime, I suggest that you take a gander at the Wikipedia article.