Posted by Victoria Solt Dennis on August 19, 2005
In Reply to: My foot posted by Smokey Stover on August 19, 2005
: : : : My foot: Origin of exclamatory phrase that expresses total disbelief? In addition to hearing it routinely all of my life (born in 1948), a friend from India says he grew up with it, as well.
: : : The OED cites it first from the 1920s, made popular presumably by the likes of Noel Coward and Dorothy Sayers. Also mentions "your foot!" and assigns the meaning "contemptuous contradiction." Nowadays, people often say "my ass!" with the same meaning. Why foot I cannot say, but perhaps someone knows. SS
: : It would sound a bit antiquated now, but people used to say "My eye!" (sometimes extended to "all my eye and Betty Martin", nobody knows why). The French say "Mon oeuil" which means the same.
: How could I have forgotten "my eye"! The OED considers it to mean simply nonsense, which is pretty close to "contemptuous contradiction," and cites it from the 18th century. What I did not expect to find were the variations on "Betty Martin," as in these citations. "1785 GROSE Class. Dict. Vulg. Tongue s.v. Betty Martin, That's my eye betty martin. 1819 MOORE Tom Crib's Mem. Congress 2 All my eye, Betty. ... 1811 POOLE Hamlet Travestied i. I., As for black clothes,--that's all my eye and Tommy." I believe V. about the French "mon oeil," but don't remember seeing it in print. SS
I haven't seen it in print either, but I said "My foot" in the presence of a Frenchman of my acquaintance, and he said "In French we say 'mon oeuil' to mean the same thing". VSD