What did thought do?

Posted by R. Berg on May 09, 2002

In Reply to: What did thought do? posted by TheFallen on May 09, 2002

: : Can anyone tell me the origin/ meaning/ ending of the phrase "You know what thought did...."

: : Please help.

: "You know what thought did? He didn't do anything - he just thought he did." A piece of nonsense which basically points out the futility of thinking that something has been done without actually going and assuring oneself that it has in fact been done. So for example, and bear in mind that I am demonstrably no budding playwright:-

: "The basement's flooded!" "But I thought I turned the faucet off..." "Well, you know what thought did."

This phrase has a long history. Two entries from Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:

"you know what thought did" is a mid C19-20 catchphrase. If one's interlocutor asks 'What?" one replies 'ran away with another man's wife.' This is a euphemistic version of the C18-mid C19 form recorded by Francis Grose, Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: 'What did thought do? Lay in bed and besh*t himself, and thought he was up'; reproof to anyone who excuses himself for any breach of positive orders, by pleading that he thought to the contrary.'
A C20 var. is recorded by Franklyn, 1968: 'The pert Cockney boy's response is, "no, 'e never! 'E only thought 'e did!"'

"what did thought do?' was a C18 catchphrase, exemplified in Jonathan Swift, 'Polite Conversation,' 1738, Dialogue I:
LADY ANSWERALL: I thought you did just now.
LORD SPARKISH: Pray, Madam, what did thought do?
The orig. form of the C19-20 'you know what thought did!' -- often extended by 'kissed another man's wife,' to quote the polite version.