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Too much, too soon

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 23, 2004

In Reply to: Too much, too soon posted by Anders on April 22, 2004

: : : : : : : Hi guys
: : : : : : : I can see that many of the old chaps are still here, which is nice. I've taken a hiatus myself, but now I'm back. Does anyone know the origin of the expression "too much too soon"? I used it myself tonight over a business dinner, and came to wonder where the expression comes from, and where I had heard it the first time.
: : : : : : : Thanks
: : : : : : : Anders

: : : : : : I haven't found anything yet. It sounds like the title of some old-time Photoplay/movie magazine article.

: : : : : It was the title of a 1957 autobiography and a 1958 movie.

: : : : : Too Much, Too Soon

: : : : : Synopsis: A portrait of Diana Barrymore, the troubled daughter of famed actor John Barrymore. Despite her wealth and privilege, Diana suffers from lack of parental love. Her famous father is affectionate when sober but vicious when drunk -- which is often. Her mother is too preoccupied by her bitterness against Barrymore to pay much attention to Diana. Then, following in her father's footsteps, Diana becomes first an actor and then an alcoholic. Along with several failed marriages, her drinking leads to extended hospitalizations and numerous suicide attempts.

: : : : Thanks, ESC. That's a little older than what I had come up with myself, cf. link. But is it the origin? Googling for 'too much too soon' it becomes evident that the expression is very popular indeed. Of course, one can substitute 'much' and 'soon' with any other pair, e.g. 'too young too pretty', but that doesn't make it an idiom. I say this, because at some point I was wondering if 'too much too soon' was even an idiom. Given its popularity, however, I do believe it is.

: : : Anders raises an interesting question, when he asks if "too much too soon" is an idiom, the question being, "What's an idiom?" Let's go back to the existence of something called "idiomatic English." That means, I think, English that seems natural to those born to the language. I don't think it has to mean "mysterious or impenetrable to foreigners." Perhaps an idiom is an "idiomatic expression," which is presumably one that requires more than textbook knowledge of how native speakers express themselves. Personally, I think "too much too soon," however familiar it may seem (and how suggestive it may be of Sunday supplement slogans) is in no way an idiom, nor a saying. How many times have you heard anyone actually say it? {Well, a few, I suppose--in imitation of the language of checkout line journalism.) But there is nothing peculiar or unique about the language of "too much too soon." It's just a phrase like any other. And speaking of Diana Barrymore, poor lost soul, isn't she the mother of Drew? That should count for something. SS

: : No, I wouldn't think that Ms. Barrymore's book was the origin. But what you asked was, where you heard it for the first time. The book and the movie, as they say, probably "popularized" the phrase.

: Hello ESC; nice to see you too again too, Smokey! Well, interesting thoughts, Smokey, but I beg to differ. Although I won't insist on 'too much too soon' being an idiom, it is hardly a phrase like any other - not the way it comes across to me, at least. This is why. To say, 'too much is a bad thing' is a platitude. 'Much' can be okay, indeed a good thing, if that's what you request; but 'too much' is ALWAYS bad. But then 'too much too soon' seems to suggest that 'too much' is kind of all right; it just came too soon. Or perhaps rather: just because it came so soon, it was WAY too much, i.e. the time factor accelerates the 'too' of the 'too much'... Okay, I'll give it a rest. Do you see what I mean?
: BTW, I probably first heard the expression via the New York Dolls album, although I've never heard it. Actually, I'm not sure if I ever heard one of their songs. In my early youth, however, I was really into punk rock - although not an actual punk myself - and I believe it may well have been then I first heard the phrase. Which reminds me: losing one's innocence is really what 'too much too soon' is all about, which is a classic poetic theme.
: How about Raymond Chandler as a possible source?
: Best regards
: Anders

Raymond Chandler? If you are reading Chandler, your reading is in the big leagues. He uses more of the English language than Hemingway. But I don't see him using this phrase (although some smart aleck is sure to prove me wrong). Where is the irony? The sense of dread? The monster dressed as a lawyer? The ingenue with blood on her hands? SS