Jump the whale
Posted: 02 July 2013 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Just watching Advise and Consent (1962) and at one point Walter Pidgeon’s character says to Peter Lawford, “How about your friend Brig Anderson? Think he’ll jump the whale?” Pidgeon means will Anderson support the President’s unpopular choice for Secretary of State, Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda). The meaning of the phrase seems to be something like take the giant leap, make the big decision.

The only relevant reference I can find by googling the phrase is an identical question by someone else who saw the movie (although they get the speaker wrong). They don’t appear to have been answered. Anyone else come across this?

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Posted: 03 July 2013 02:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was around and somewhat mentally functional in 1962 (freshman year in college) and I don’t have the foggiest idea.

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Posted: 03 July 2013 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Here’s a reply to the question(with the same observation about mixing up the speakers).

It sounds plausible that jump the rail could be misheard as jump the whale.

I was sort of hoping that it was a Melville reference :)

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Posted: 03 July 2013 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Which gives me a thin excuse to post this link.

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Posted: 03 July 2013 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Excellent find, Jetty Jim! I think the poster is on to something. I’ve just listened to the dialogue another 3 or 4 times and although it still sounds like whale it is tantalizingly close to rail and sound quality could well be the explanation for the mishearing. I’m convinced now that he’s saying jump the rail.

That’s priceless, Dave!

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Posted: 03 July 2013 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I love the video, but I don’t think I’ll be able to hear that song anymore without thinking, “Gopher tuna - bring more tuna.”

The “jump the rail” explanation certainly seems plausible.

Another possibility that occurred to me, which I offer with no particular confidence, is that “jump the whale” (if that’s what was said) might not be a fixed idiomatic expression, but simply a phrase containing two, unrelated slang terms: “jump” as in “get rid of / avoid” and “whale” as a derisive way of referring to the unpopular fellow in question.  This theory would make more sense if the fellow in question was either obese or a notorious gambler, but I could also imagine “whale” simply being used a general term of abuse.

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Posted: 03 July 2013 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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FWIW imdb quotes the line as “He jumped the whale!” and assigns it to the Walter Pidgeon character.

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Posted: 04 July 2013 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Is a reference to Captain Ahab out of the question ...?

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