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The phrase, "Wait for it..."

Posted by Masakim on April 08, 2003

In Reply to: The phrase, "Wait for it..." posted by Bob on April 08, 2003

: : : You know, like a terribly obvious suspense cue...
: : : I've heard this phrase for many years, in many movies, tv shows, and even in comedian's stand up acts. Any ideas where this comes from?

: : : TIA

: : : Mike

: : I've nothing to back this up but I believe it originated in the British Army. When private soldiers were about to jump the gun by anticipating the next command the Sergeant Major held then back with 'wait for it' (usually + you 'orrible little oiks). That's how it is in English WWII films anyway.

: That's my take on it, too. You don't hear it here on the left side of the pond, but it does seem to appear in every British army film.

wait for it! -- properly, the phrase is rapidly repeated, as in the Coward quot'n below. If it derives from the army's _wait for it!_, wait for the word of command (e.g., to fix bayonets), it dates, as a c.p., since the latter part of WW1; if, however, it has a music-hall origin, the c.p. may go back to late C19.

In _Red Peppers_, written c. 1935 and pub'd in 1936, Noel Coward offers -- immediately after 'Refrain 1' in the first dialogue, this vastly convinient example:

GEORGE: I saw a very strange thing the other day.
LILY: What was it?
GEORGE: Twelve men standing under one umbrella and they didn't get wet.
LILY: How's that?
GEORGE: It wasn't raining. (Wait for it -- wait for it.)

That is, wait for the laughter to end before you resume the dialogue.

From Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day by Eric Partridge & Paul Beale