Posted by Sean Toy on November 25, 2001
In Reply to: "You make a better door than a window" posted by R. Berg on November 25, 2001 at
: : My mother used this phrase anytime I blocked the view of the
television. I understand the intent.
: : However, the word order is odd. After she passed away, I set about to find the source of her
: : favorite phrase, to no avail. I travel about the USA as a trainer, and use it as an 'ice-breaker' many
: : weeks. The phrase is fairly well known, but with no particular regional correlation. I suspected it to
: : be a 'literal translation' from her native Polish-language childhood, or possibly a chatch-phrase
: : from a depression era radio show (the history of her other favorite saying, 'now you're cooking with
: : gas', was explained to me by an older neighbor once).
: : I have no reference library to draw upon, and would appreciate the help of the many wise and
: : experienced word-smiths on this site.
: : PS: If you find it on a website, I will add that link to my home page.
: : ...thx. Dave @travelin-tigers
: From Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":
: "'you make a better door than a window.' Addressed
to a person obstructing the light: US (Lester V. Berrey and Melvin Van Den Bark,
"The American Thesaurus of Slang," 1942) and New Zealand (Sidney J. Baker, "New
Zealand Slang," 1941), both since c. 1920 at latest. Cf. 'is your father a glazier?'
: John B. Smith, 1979, recalls an English version: 'you make a very good door, but a very bad window.' Prof. John W. Clark, 1977, doubts that the phrase was ever very much used in US."
: Comments: Prof. Clark was wrongedy-wrong-wrong. Nothing in Partridge's account suggests a Polish origin. I don't find the word order so odd. Compare "Gluten flour makes better bread than cake."
I heard the phrase used in Ireland more than 60 years ago so I guess it was at least well known in the 1940s. I've no idea if Ireland was the birthplace - judging by the idiom it might well have been.