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Actress and bishop

Posted by R. Berg on April 01, 2001

In Reply to: Saying posted by Sandal on April 01, 2001

: The phrase is " said the actress to the bishop", who was the actress?, who was the bishop?, and what is the link?.

From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:

"as the actress said to the bishop"--and vice versa. An innuendo scabrously added to an entirely innocent remark, as in 'It's too stiff for me to manage it--as the actress said to the bishop' or, conversely, 'I can't see what I'm doing--as the bishop said to the actress'. Certainly in RAF use c. 1944-7, but probably going back to to Edwardian days; only very slightly obsolete by 1975, it is likely to outlive most of us."

The actress and the bishop are imaginary characters, not historical figures.

This must be a British expression; I've never heard it in the U.S.