WORDS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORDS > 1998-02 > 0888341034
From: RDBILLMIRE <""@erols.com>
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 15:23:54 -0200
Sometime ago I wrote to Bill Mitchell asking him about the phrase ' to
each his own, said the old lady as she kissed the cow. ' He put my query
on the list, but no one seemed to have an answer. One day, while looking
up a definition for another word I saw the word ' wellerism ' - wrote
Merriam Webster and here's the answer to my question.
The following is my letter to, and return letter from, Merriam Webster.
Date: Sat, 14 Feb 1998
RE: Meriam Webster definition of WELLERISM:
Etymology: Sam Weller, witty servant of Mr. Pickwick in the story
(1836-37) by Charles Dickens
: an expression of comparison comprising a usually well-known quotation
followed by a facetious sequel (as "`every one to his own taste,' said
the old woman as she kissed the cow")
Is the phrase
" every one to his own taste, said the old lady as she kissed the cow "
one used by Dickens in ' The Pickwick Papers ' or, is there another
source for this phrase ? If so what is the source ?
My Danishborn grandmother - born 1882 - used the phrase and told me
she heard it as a child. I'd appreciate an answer as to whether the
expression is a true Wellerism, and if not why was it chosen ?
I hope for, and will quite appreciate, an answer.
The practice of creating in English what came to be known as
"Wellerisms" antedates the use of the term by well over a century.
In the 1690's when Peter Motteux was translating Rabelais, he
used what is now thought to have then been a common English
proverb, "Every one as they like, as the woman said when she kissed
her cow" for the French that Rabelais had written. Jonathan Swift
cited it in his "Polite Conversation" of 1738 as "Why every one as
they like; as the good woman said when she kissed her cow". The
reason that this was chosen as an example of a "Wellerism" in the
Collegiate Dictionary is that it is so recognizable as such. That it
has been known in the US is attested by its use in "Uncle Lisha's
Shop," written by Rowland E. Robinson in 1887, where he transcribes it
as "Everybody to their notion, 's the ol' woman said when she kissed
To answer your question, then, yes, the saying fits the definition
of what the word "Wellerism" means even if it was in circulation long
before Sam Weller was created. Weller's character was so prolific at
this type of speech that his name easily leant itself to defining it.
I hope I've been helpful.
Kathleen M. Doherty