honey-do list
Posted: 27 April 2007 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Yesterday someone at work referred to his “honey-do list”—the list of stuff to do that his wife makes for him.

Googling leads me to believe it’s a Dr. Philism—or at least was popularized by the guy. Anyone know more about its origins?

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Posted: 27 April 2007 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I heard it long before Dr. Phil arrived on the scene.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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According to Googlebooks, it turns up in a transcript of Congressional hearings on commercial motor vehicle safety, published in 1980 by the GPO.  As a government publication, it ought to be public domain, at least in the US, but Google is treating it as a copyrighted work and severely limiting what I can see of it, so I can’t verify the date.  And the “snippet view” stubbornly insists on showing snippets in which the relevant line is just below or just above the fragment of page shown.  You can check it out here.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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But remember not to trust the date given by Google Books AT ALL. It’s not that there are a few unavoidable errors (but 99% are right): they’re all over the map, on any type of periodical USUALLY FAR off. I think what happens is they digitize say 100 years of Such-and-Such Journal, and put the date of the first issue (or the first issue which comes to hand) on all of them. At least some of these government publications are similarly badly wrong in my experience. Books are more often correctly dated, but still it’s not nearly reliable.

One can trust only a date which actually appears within the reproduced item.

In the on-line newspapers, at a glance, I find this “honey do” [… project, ... job, etc.] ("honey, do this”, “honey, do that") from 1972. With “list”, from 1978.

[ Edited: 27 April 2007 06:19 PM by D Wilson ]
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Posted: 27 April 2007 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Worldcat and several other online library catalogs I checked also give a 1980 date for the book I cited.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s generally highly likely that a document of the given name and date exists. The question is whether Google Books’ “snippet” is really taken from that document ... as opposed, say, to being taken from another document in the same (multi-year) series ... or (in only a few cases in my own experience) from some completely unrelated document.

One way to check is to use the “search within this book” feature, and search for a later year: if the document is ‘dated’ 1980 but you search for 1985 and get all sorts of information about events which happened in 1985, probably the material is not correctly dated, or at least not entirely correctly dated. In the current case, I did not find such anachronisms on quick inquiry, so I think the date is indeed likely (not certain) to be correct ... this time.

[ Edited: 27 April 2007 06:48 PM by D Wilson ]
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Posted: 27 April 2007 07:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hello All,
Although I am new to this site, I have to make a purely anecdotal comment.  I am 42 years old and can remember my mother giving my father “honey do” lists - and calling them such - as early as 1971.  I do believe that the term is somewhat older than the 1980 date your Google search is citing.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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So do I.  Saying that it’s in a book from 1980 is not intended to imply that it originated then.  Indeed, Douglas Wilson has already stated that he found the “honey do” usage in newspapers in 1972.

Welcome to Wordorigins.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 11:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m pretty sure that my wife invented the term when we got married back in ‘73. ;)

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Posted: 28 April 2007 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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In the OP Scarequotes asks about a “honey-do list”.

A Google news archive list search has “Honey do this.” and “Honey do that.” back in the 1950s but does not pull up a “honey do list” until the 1990s

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Posted: 29 April 2007 09:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I should be clear that I thought it very unlikely that Dr. Phil actually coined the term. But I don’t watch Dr. Phil, and wondered if he’d popularized it, or if it had been reasonably popular pre-Phil.

I also figured it was a play on “to-do list”—you make that yourself, while your significant other makes the honey-do list. But it’s interesting to see that the honey-do part has been around longer than the list element.

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Posted: 29 April 2007 09:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I’m sure that it’s a play on “honeydew” (sounds like something sweet and nice, as in “… melon").

I can find this “honey-do” back to 1961.

One early version used “Melon Club” (which may be a play on something else, I don’t know): something like “When he retired, he joined the Melon Club. Every day his wife said “Honeydew this, honeydew that.”

The way I first heard this (can’t remember when, maybe 1965-1970?) it was something like: “I had a honeydew weekend at home with my wife ... she said ‘Honey, do this!’ and ‘Honey, do that!’”.

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Posted: 29 April 2007 09:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Overheard at a greengrocer’s:

“Cantelope.”

“Oh, honeydew!

New special on the lunch menu at the Hotel Ritz:

“Honeymoon salad. Lettuce alone without any dressing.”

(From a generation before mine. And reading Dave’s post above, it has an aire of Bob Hope and gang.)

[ Edited: 29 April 2007 11:10 PM by foolscap ]
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