December 13, 2005

Quicker than What?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by dgcombs

So… today I was using Google to the full extent of the law when I came across this little bit of information. Now, I’m not the original author – which claims to be the mysterious VOL_083 from MIT.EDU.

But I thought it interesting enough to pass along.

Have you ever wondered, incidentally, about the origin of this interesting phrase “”Quicker than you can say Jack Robinson?”” Well sir, the original saying was French “”Plus tite que de dire Jacques Robespierre.”” Jack Robinson is, as everyone knows, an Anglicization of Jacques Robespierre who was, as everyone also knows, the famous figure from the French Revolution who, as everyone else knows, got murdered in his bath by Danton, Murat, Caligula, and Al Capone. (The reason people started saying “”Quicker than you can say Jacques Robespierre”” or Jack Robinson, as he is called in English-speaking countries like England, the U.S. and possibly Cleveland is quite an interesting little story. It seems that Robespierre’s wife, Georges Sand, got word of the plot to murder her husband in his bath. All she had to do to save his life was call his name and warn him. But, alas, quicker than she could say Jacques Robespierre, she received a telegram from her old friend Frederic Chopin who was down in Majorca setting lyrics to his immortal “”Warsaw Concerto.”” Chopin said he needed Georges Sand’s help desperately because he could not find a rhyme for “”Warsaw.”” Naturally, Georges could not refuse such an urgent request. Well sir, off to Majorca went Georges, but before she left, she told her little daughter Walter that some bad men were coming to murder Daddy in his bath. She instructed Walter to shout Robespierre’s name the moment the bad men arrived. But Walter, alas, had been sea-bathing that morning on the Riviera, and she had come home with a big bag of salt water taffy. When the bad men arrived to murder Robespierre, Walter, alas, was chewing a wad of taffy and could not get her mouth unstuck in time to shout a warning. Robespierre, alas, was murdered quicker than you could say Jacques Robespierre or Jack Robinson, as he is called in English-speaking countries. There is, I am pleased to report, one small note of cheer in this grisly tale. When Georges Sand got to Majorca, she did succeed in helping Chopin find a rhyme for “”Warsaw”” as everyone knows who has heard those haunting lyrics:

In the fair town of Warsaw,

Which Napoleon’s horse saw,

Singing cockles and mussels,

alive alive oh!


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