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Laugh and grow fat

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 19, 2006

In Reply to: Laugh and grow fat posted by elizabeth on October 19, 2006

: What is the meaning of the phrase "laugh and grow fat"?

Google provides numerous sources for this phrase, so many that I was unable to find one I could call the oldest. One source describes it as "an old adage," and surely it is.

A series of prints dating from 1761-1766 includes: "Laugh and grow Fat

Chas. Corbet fecit
London. Printed for Robt. Sayer, No. 53 Fleet Street
A portly gentleman with his left hand on his hip laughs out loud and holds his right hand to his belly.

31.4 x 25.3 cm.
Yale Center for British Art (B1970.3.1110)" The description is of a print reproduced on the website, at:

From an 1832 book about Punch and Judy we have: "Mr. Punch is one jolly good fellow,
His dress is all scarlet and yellow,
And if now and then he gets mellow,
It's only among his good friends.
His money most freely he spends;
To laugh and grow fat he intends,
With the girls he's s rogue and a rover;
He lives, while he can, upon clover;
When he dies-its only all over;
And there Punch's comedy ends." See (inter alia):

An 1851 letter from Tahiti tells us, among much else: "The natives are the happiest run of mortals I have ever seen; always good-natured, with no care or trouble. They laugh and grow fat."

An Ohio broadside (single printed sheet) from the 1850s bears this title: Laugh and Grow Fat. Comic Concert. For the benefit of the Old Auctioneer! W. A. Moyston.

It is the title, and provides one track, of a well-received CD by the Ill-Mo Boys, from guess where.

It appears to exist as the title of a video game.

There are many other examples of the use of this saying from the 18th century until our times. Plainly, before the formation of our modern scientific concepts concerning health and diet, "Laugh and grow fat" was considered a good precept. A number of cited sources use it as a slogan representing the salubriousness of being cheerful, others, more recent, warning that, while laughter is just fine, growing fat is not a good recipe for that healthy glow. In older writing one often finds and association of being cheery and jolly with being fat. Think of Jolly Old Saint Nick, with his belly resembling "bowlful of jelly."