Saturday, June 26, 2010

I don’t know Nick the bartender from Adam’s off ox

In my previous post I used the phrase “Adam’s off ox.” For those of you who have never heard that expression before, click here for an interesting explanation by a British blogger named Michael Quinion.

For the record, my mother said “Adam’s off ox” and she was born in Philadelphia. I suppose that explains why I say it; after all, I learned to talk at my mother’s knee. My wife says “Adam’s housecat.” She was also born in Philadelphia, but she moved to North Carolina when she was eleven. I never heard any of the other variations Michael mentions (Adam’s brother, Adam’s foot, Adam’s pet monkey) in my entire life. In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Nick the bartender said, “I don’t know you from Adam’s off ox.”

Today’s trivia factoid: Nick the bartender was played by Sheldon Leonard, who in later years produced the television series The Danny Thomas Show (1953 - 1964), The Andy Griffith Show (1960 - 1968), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961 - 1966), I Spy (1965 - 1968), and some episodes of Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Something else I say is “Braddock’s bull.” My wife says “Blalock’s bull.” We are obviously incompatible.

[Editor's Note. I also say “buck naked” but a lot of people say “butt naked.” Epstein’s Law comes into play here, which I have named for my friend and former colleague, Sanford J. Epstein, a 305-lb. Jew from Burlington, Vermont, and Pompano Beach, Florida, who said, “If there’s a difference that makes no difference, then there is no difference.” He also wore a Kelly green suit every St. Patrick’s Day and changed his name tag to read Sanford J. O’Epstein, but I have chosen to ignore that. -- RWP, 6/27/2010]


  1. I just love, 'It's a Wonderful Life', but I digress.
    In my part of the world, we just say, "I don't know you from Adam", which worked fine until Adam became one of the most popular names for boys. Now, such a comment usually illicits the reply, "Which one?" x

  2. Thank you for the link to the discussion of "Adam's off ox," (a phrase I've heard most of my life). I found the site to be delightful and have added it to my feeds. I love words, and the origins thereof, although my ability to use more "cultured" vocabulary has dimenished drastically in my old age.

    Aside: the word verification popped right up this time.

  3. Rather -- "diminished" My spelling has gone down the tube, too.

  4. To avoid all this confusion with language, you should probably and very simply just stop talking. Failing that, if you buy me a return air ticket to Atlanta I will fly over to give you expert coaching from the cradle of English - England itself. I will sleep in the spare room. Breakfast will be homemade pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, prepared by Mrs Brague and for dinner I will require rib-eyed steak barbecued by yourself while I lounge in the pool. Don't worry - I only charge $250 a day.

  5. Our family has used the phrase "I woulsn't know him/her from Adam's house cat" for as long as I remember as a way of saying they don'tknow someone. I have never heard the variations. Thank you RWP.

    I think you should take YP up on his offer.

  6. I DO know you from Adam - sort of! But not your new blog design - you have been playing! :)

  7. I always thought the expression used by the bartender in IAWL was "Adam's off aunt." No idea if that's really what he said or it's only what I heard or, either way, what it means.

    Once during a sermon at church I heard the preacher say "children of leprechauns" which flummoxed me until on the way home I asked my man what that meant and he told me the preacher said "children of leper colonies."


    I didn't know leper colonies had children but I can see it more than I can see leprechauns having them.

    But if they did, they'd be born buck naked.

    As you were.

  8. I've always been amused and amazed and fascinated and fixated with Which Came First? The "butt " or the "buck" when it came to buck/butt nekkid.

    Meanwhile, and this is where I get amused and amazed and fascinated and fixated with Which Came First? The irony or the synchronicity...
    For the past five minutes, and since it's hot enough to fry either
    A: The chicken
    B: The egg
    A: the sidewalk
    B: my desk
    well, the fact is that I made the choice, a minute or two before I opened your blog, to get all the way in the altogether butt/buck naked state.

    Though rumor has it that this is pretty much true of most of your readers most of the time.