His name is Dennis

Posted by ESC on March 21, 2003

In Reply to: His name is Dennis posted by ESC on March 21, 2003

: : Hi all,
: : I was wondering if anyone knew the meaning of this phrase, found in George Kelly's play "Daisy Mayme," written in 1926:
: : "My name is absolutely DENNIS out there in that kitchen! They won't let me do a thing!"

: : What does the phrase itself mean? What did DENNIS refer to in the 1920's???
: :
: : Help!! My actors are struggling for the answer. Thank you!

: Here's one reference entry. Looking for others.

: (one's) name is Dennis - one is done for. J. Reynolds in "Knickerbocker" (May) 38 "Carry me on, and his name Dennis"! cried the boat-steerer in a confident voice." From Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994.

Information from a source in the 1951 issue of "American Speech" is included: "There is not much doubt but that this use of 'Dennis' is an allusion to an expression which may still be used, 'His name is Dennis.' In the early part of the past century, whalers applied the name Dennis to a whale so stricken with a harpoon that he spouted blood, or appeared to do so. Among the whalers the expression 'his name is Dennis' meant he is done for, he has had it. Many years ago I heard this expression but it may now have died out altogether." From the "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume II, D-H, by Frederic G. Cassidy, chief editor, (1991, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England).