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"Oh Brother"

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 05, 2006

In Reply to: "Oh Brother" posted by diane on June 05, 2006

: where did the phrase come from when something agravates you "Oh Brother"?

From the same place as "Man" and "Oh, man" used as interjections. Alle Menschen werder Brüder, so calling on "Man" or "Brother" as witness is easy to do. Here's the OED comment. "[brother] d. (i) As a familiar mode of address to a man, esp. one whose name is not known (see also quot. 1973) (U.S.); (ii) int., a mild exclamation of annoyance, surprise, etc. (chiefly U.S.).1912 Dialect Notes III. 572 Say, brother, can you tell me how far it is to Veedersburg? 1924 Cosmopolitan Dec. 68/2 'Brother, you're sitting pretty!' sighs the money-mad Hazel, enviously. 1943 N.Y. Times 9 May II. 5 Why, brother, all the cats cut a mean rug to that music. 1953 Manch. Guardian Weekly 20 Aug. 7 Never did learn to spell it. But, brother, I drank it. 1957 B. & C. EVANS Dict. Contemp. Amer. Usage 73/1 The singular is used a great deal in America as a semi-facetious form of address (You said it, brother!), as an introduction to an informal supplication (Brother, can you spare a dime?) and, often, just as an exclamation (Brother! You should have seen that guy!). 1969 Islander (Victoria, B.C.) 9 Nov. 6/3 Then when you think you've got used to mountain roads you hit one like the Seton-Darcy road. Oh Brother! ..."

I suppose that all answers "when," but "whence" remains a question of questionable meaning. Who first said it, and why? I think we'll never know.