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Posted by ESC on January 16, 2009 at 21:37

In Reply to: God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies posted by Smokey Stover on January 16, 2009 at 03:59:

: : : : "God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies".

: : : Wellerisms in Ireland: Towards a Corpus from Oral and Literary Sourcesý - Page 20
: : : by Fionnuala Carson Williams - Ireland - 2003 - 321 pages

: : : '"God bless us and save us," said old Biddy Davis,

: : : above notes 1030's and it spread to Irish in Boston and such and appears in varied plays, books sometimes as Mrs Davis or Mrs O'Davis.

: : : The basic "GBUASU" also is seen wiith other names but the Irish seems the source.

: : ----------------------------------------

: : Thanks, Joe. I hadn't heard of Wellerisms before, though it's an obvious name. You give a date as "1030's" - is this 1830's?

: : Earler today I had a quick look on the web (for a second time) and found something I'd missed first time around. It's a script for the US (CBS) radio show from 1941 (, page 8). This ties in (possibly) with the nursery rhyme angle - and also with the Irish origins. It has: "Fire, fire said Mrs McGuire; Where, where said Mrs Blair; Down town said Mrs Brown; Heaven save us said Mrs Davis." To complete the circle to Wellerisms, I was able to use "McGuire" to make a more more fruitful search, and one ending of the rhyme appears to be "Oh help us and save us! said Mrs. Davis as she fell down the stairs with a sack of potatoes." It looks as if this may have been a school yard rhyme, at least in the US. How my father got hold of it, God alone knows. Thanks again - Graham C
: .........................................

: Interesting puzzle. The versions with "old Mrs. Davis" or "Mrs. O'Davis", even with the second line, "as she fell down the stairs with a sack of potatoes," can easily be scanned as dactylic tetrameter, one of the easiest meters to remember. This certainly supports the idea of a schoolyard rhyme, even if potatoes doesn't exactly rhyme with Davis.
: SS

Wellerisms - "a form of comparison in which a saying or proverbial express is attributed to an amusingly inapposite source. Mieder & Kingbury in their 'dictionary of Wellerisms' note that a Wellerism usually consists of three parts: a statement, a speaker who makes this remark, and a phrase or clause that places the utterance in a new light or an incompatible setting. The type was known long before Dickens gave a fondness for uttering these jocular remarks to Sam Weller." From "Oops, Pardon Mrs Arden! An Embarrassment of Domestic Catchphrases" by Nigel Rees, Robson Books, London, 2001. Page 5. Mr. Rees lists several Wellerisms including "Everybody to their liking, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow." Another one is similar to a joke my West Virginia grandmother made about a woman who was trying to drown her husband in the creek: "Every little helps - as the old lady said when she piddled into the sea." My grandmother's version was "every little bit helps." I remember this because phrases stick in my mind and because it was one of only two times during my growing up that I heard a woman say anything negative about men. Mr. Nigel lists other types of domestic/family phrases: fobbing-off phrases (an adult giving a child a nonsense answer to a question); initial code (FHB for family hold back when food is in short supply and there are dinner guests); loophemisms, euphemisms for going to the loo/toilet/outhouse/restroom; mangled words, deliberate mispronounciation; and nannyisms, cautionary statements either by actual nannies or other caretakers.