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?