To coin a phrase
Posted by Bob on May 05, 2005
In Reply to: To coin a phrase posted by Steve E on May 04, 2005
: : : : : : : : : In reading the old book "Try and Stop Me" by Bennet Cerf, I came across this passage: "...the Doctors Piccard, are exact Peas in a podtwins, as identical, to coin a phrase, as peas in a pod." Is it possible that this is the first time the phrase "Peas in a pod" was used as an idiom? The book was published in 1944. I find it hard to believe that Bennet Cerf coined the phrase... but maybe.
: : : : : : : : I've found a reference from 1905, but I doubt that it is the origin.
: : : : : : : Bennett had an impish sense of humor.
: : : : : : Mr. Cerf (yes, his first name has two t's) was just playing with his readers. Saying "to coin a phrase" there was a way of apologizing for using such a blatant cliché.
: : : : :
: : : : : I frequently hear 'to coin a phrase' used in a way which is totally contrary to its actual meaning. Many speakers and writers seem to be under the impression that it means something like 'to use an old phrase', rather than to invent a new one. This is sadly the case even with reasonably intelligent people one would think would know better.
: : : : : DFG
: : : : I agree with DFG. Maybe Mr. Cerf was thinking "to use a phrase" but it came out "to coin a phrase". Surprising that he would slip up like that.
: : : Bob and Bergie are right. It's not just Cerf, but practically everyone else that says "to coin a phrase" when no phrase is actually coined, that is trying to be humorous. Or at least in the U.S.A. No, no, no, Cerf did not slip, nor do all those other wags who find humor in this contradictory use of the cliche. Cerf was a very bright man, with (as Bob noted) an impish sense of humor. SS
: : I have to confess to a shameful ignorance: who is (was?) Bennett Cerf?
: : DFG
: OK I'll take your word for that, but I really don't understand why those "wags" would find humor in this contradiction. Am I missing something here? I personally would not find any humor in speaking incorrectly but many have said that I tend to be curmudgeon-like at times.
Bennett Cerf was a raconteur, television personality, humorist, editor ... all in addition to being the head of Random House, one of the largest book publishers in the world. He was a regular panelist on a televised game show throughout the 1950s, and became a household name because of it. As to whether this particular mild witticism is actually funny, it depends. It is indirectly amusing to see humorless people baffled by "illogical" statements.