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The meaning and origin of the expression: Heavens to Murgatroyd

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Heavens to Murgatroyd

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Heavens to Murgatroyd'?

An exclamation of surprise.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Heavens to Murgatroyd'?

Heavens to Murgatroyd'Heavens to Murgatroyd' is American in origin and dates from the mid 20th century. The expression was popularized by the cartoon character Snagglepuss - a regular on the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s, and is a variant of the earlier 'heavens to Betsy'.

Despite etymologists' best efforts there isn't any record of the phrase that pre-dates the cartoon series and it seems quite likely that it was coined by the show's writers. The frequently repeated suggestion that the phrase was said by Bert Lahr's character in the 1944 film Meet The People isn't correct. [I know, I've watched the film, (which is 100 minutes that I'll never get back), and at no time is the phrase or anything like it said by any character.].

As with Betsy, we have no idea who Murgatroyd was. The various spellings of the name - as Murgatroid, Mergatroyd or Mergatroid tend to suggest that it wasn't a reference to an actual person but just a fanciful expression made up because it sounded wacky.

No fewer than ten of the characters in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera Ruddigore, 1887, are baronets surnamed "Murgatroyd", eight of whom (or is that which?) are ghosts.

Where then did the librettist Sir William Gilbert get the name? It seems that Murgatroyd has a long history as a family name in the English aristocracy. In his genealogy The Murgatroyds of Murgatroyd, Bill Murgatroyd states that, in 1371, a constable was appointed for the district of Warley in Yorkshire. He adopted the name of Johanus de Morgateroyde - literally John of Moor Gate Royde or 'the district leading to the moor'.

Whether the Murgatroyd name took a trip from Yorkshire to Jellystone Park we can't be certain. Unless there's a Betsy Murgatroyd hiding in the archives, that's as close as we are likely to get to a derivation.

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