Help with “in like Flynn”
Posted: 12 November 2013 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was watching an old episode of Midsomer Murders on Netflix and a character recited a nursery rhyme that go me thinking about the origin of the phrase “in like Flynn”:

Ding, dong, bell
Pussy’s in the well.
Who put her in?
Little Johnny Flynn.
Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout.

The Big List entry is here. It was the in/Flynn and out/Stout rhymes that made the connection for me.

But I’m not sure of chronology, in particular when the line Little Johnny Flynn came into vogue. Little Johnny Green is the canonical variant, and there are other names used as well. I’ve found the Flynn variant of the nursery rhyme dating to the 1950s, but no web-based searches take it further back. It would have to be well established by no later than 1940 to have inspired the in like Flynn catchphrase. The Opies’ book doesn’t include the Flynn variant (despite Wikipedia citing it as the source for that version).

Anyone have ideas on where I might look?

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Posted: 13 November 2013 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This won’t help at all but I used to think it had something to do with Errol.

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Posted: 13 November 2013 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s surely just as possible that ‘Little Johnny Flynn’ variant arose as an unconscious response to the existence of in like Flynn and out like Stout’.

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Posted: 13 November 2013 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There’s the Opie Collection at the Bodleian Library, although I’m not sure if it’s accessible online.

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Posted: 13 November 2013 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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At this point it’s all speculative. I’m on the search for evidence.

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Posted: 14 November 2013 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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On Gutenberg.org, take a look at:
Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes, by Lina Eckenstein

Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes

The book is from 1906, and references earlier works.
The “Tommy Green” was new to me, I had always seen Finn or Lin.
Maybe later than this “Flin” or “Flynn” came up.  So you have “hits” either side of the date. Lots of other nursery rhyme collections on Gutenberg, will keep looking…

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Posted: 14 November 2013 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’ve checked Gutenberg. There are no “Flynn” variants to be found there. Or at least I didn’t find any.

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