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"Black over Wills Mother"

Posted by James Briggs on July 30, 2005

In Reply to: "Black over Wills Mother" posted by David FG on July 30, 2005

: : : "Black over Wills Mother". I have been looking for the origin of this phrase just today and one website suggests it was used regularly in the east Midlands, but nobody seems to know who "Will's Mother" is. I was discussing it with my Dad and he has come to what I think is a viable conclusion.

: : : Parts of East Midlands looks out to Europe with Holland being one of the main part. King William 1st's mother was from Holland. Will's mother could be her - espceially as people could look out East to the sea, see a black storm brewing and say "thats black over wills mothers"

: : : Any thoughts on this theory? Has it been suggested before?

: : It's been discussed a bunch of times here. (Search the archives -- "black mother." I'm not sure if that theory has been suggested. Anybody remember? Here's what I found in a book recently bought:

: : IT'S DARK/BLACK OVER BILL'S/WILL'S MOTHER'S WAY - This reference lists variations and various places this saying is common. But doesn't say anything definitive about its origins. ".in 1930, the erudite journal 'Notes and Queries' carried a query about this phrase in the form 'it looks pretty black over Will's Mother's'. It was described as an 'old Sussex' saying. And there was no response. Barry Day of New York, NY, recalled that 'It's a bit black over Bill's mother's' used to be said a great deal by his mother when he was growing up in Derbyshire. 'It was always said ironically,' he added. 'So I can confirm its Midlands usage.'.The Revd P.W. Gallop, Hampshire, wrote in 1994 that he had traced the saying to eleven counties and commented on its age: 'I have friends in their late eighties who as children knew it well from their parents and say that it was widely known and used. This suggests that the saying has been used at least by several generations.'. " Variations: It looks like rain.over Will's mother's way, it's a bit black over Bill's mother's, and (from Gloucestershire) it's dark over our Bill's Mum's, mind. From "Oops, Pardon Mrs Arden! An Embarrassment of Domestic Catchphrases" by Nigel Rees (Robson Books, London, 2001) Page 109-110.

: Interesting theory, but William the 1st's mother was Herleva of Falaise (which is in Normandy.)


Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day, uses the variant ". . . Bill's mother.", rather than "Will". Partridge goes on ..."Applied to dark clouds looming--in no matter what quarters of the sky. The phrase is very common, later C20, in the East Midlands, but is by no means limited to that region, for I have heard it also from a Scotsman in Sussex, where also I heard the variant 'it's a bit brighter over . . .'"

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