Keeping up with the Joneses

Posted by Marian on January 17, 2002

I understand this phrase to mean keeping up at least the appearance of wealth or class to the roughly equivalent degree that one's neighbors exhibit same, particularly in terms of the display of physical possessions. The earlier discussion of Jonesing, and particularly the noun, Jones, made me wonder if there was a connection, since both the noun Jones and the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" seem to hinge on acquisition. On the other hand, "Jones" is quite a common surname in the U.S., and I had previously assumed that "keeping up with the Joneses" was phrased with "Joneses" in it to impart the ubiquity of the phenomenon. Any ideas on whether ubiquity or acquisitivity is the guiding principle here?