Have you ever been asked to see someone’s etchings? And if so, did you snigger?
In my current work in progress, the hero is a part-time painter (he also manages an international biscuit business. Hey, it’s my story and I love biscuits…). When my hero invited his personal assistant to come and see his paintings, I found myself smiling and thinking about etchings (funnily enough, so did my heroine).
It made me stop and think – where on earth that phrase came from?
According to Wikipedia (that fountain of all knowledge) it originated in the 1890’s from a novel called The Erie Train Boy by Horatio Alger, Jr. In his book a woman writes to her boyfriend that she has a collection of etchings she wants to show him. She asks, ‘Won’t you name an evening when you will call, as I want to be certain to be at home when you really do come.’ The boyfriend replies. ‘I shall no doubt find pleasure in examining the etchings which you hold out as an inducement to call.’ It was later referenced in various books in the 1930’s, including The Thin Man, ‘She just wanted to show me some French etchings.’
It is also believed to have been influenced by Mae West’s line, ‘Come up and see me some time!’ although originally that was believed to be,’Why don’t you come up sometime ‘n see me?’ (from the film She Done Him Wrong in 1933, reference).
During the 1930’s it seems the phrase ‘do you want to come up and see my etchings’ gained more popularity when it was used in several cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, including one from James Thurber where it was turned on its head. In an elegant hotel lobby an eager-looking female guest is told by her male host, ‘You wait here and I’ll bring the etchings down!’ (reference).
Finally, I have seen a reference believing the phrase came originally from the French expression ’Veux-tu monter voir mes estampes japonaises?’ (Do you want to come up and see my collection of Japanese stamps?).
Umm, that just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it, does it?