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Q: Phrases ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Phrases
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: sook-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 24 Aug 2004 10:31 PDT
Expires: 23 Sep 2004 10:31 PDT
Question ID: 391922
Where did the phrase "a good time was had by all" come from, and what
kind of statement is it?  I know it is used a lot in the military.
Subject: Re: Phrases
Answered By: justaskscott-ga on 24 Aug 2004 21:06 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello sook,

The language expert Eric Partridge apparently stated in A Dictionary
of Catch Phrases (London, 1977):

"In 1937, the late Miss Stevie Smith's book of verse, _A Good Time Was
Had By All_ appeared; and within five years in Britain and by 1950 at
latest in the US, the words of the title had become a catch phrase....
 Perhaps six months before Stevie Smith's death, I wrote to her and
asked whether she had coined the phrase or adopted and popularized it.
 Her explanation was startlingly      simple: she took it from parish
magazines, where a church picnic...or other sociable occasion, almost
inevitably generated the comment, 'A good time was had by all.'"

"Re: A good time was had by all", online posting (1996/10/08)
<sci.lang> via Google Groups

Nigel Rees reiterates Partridge's finding in Cassell Companion to
Quotations (London, 1997), p. 508.  (I have no online citation; I
found it in the actual book.)

So the phrase was floating around prior to 1937, perhaps for decades
as suggested by tutuzdad's comment on the 1922 usage.  But Stevie
Smith, based on her reading of parish magazines, popularized it.

- justaskscott

Search terms used, in various combinations, on Google:

"good time was had"
stevie smith
sook-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Phrases
From: gujo-ga on 24 Aug 2004 12:01 PDT
"A good time was had by all" is a popular christian phrase, coined by
the classical English novelist CS Lewis. It is a quote of a reading of
his, "On Divine Goodness", then published in his book "The Joyful
Christian", in a well-known piece of philosophy about a the mystery of
suffering. Its use was to present a simplified view of the position he
was going to refute, and then became popular among chistians worldwide
because of its bible-like consonance :

 By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His
lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context,
most of us mean kindness - the desire to see others than the self
happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would
really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to
like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We
want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in
heaven - a senile benevolence who, as they say, "likes to see young
people enjoying themselves," and whose plan for the universe was
simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good
time was had by all." Not many people, I admit, would formulate a
theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different
lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I
should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such
lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don't, and since I have
reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my
conception of love needs corrections.

I might, indeed, have learned, even from the poets, that love is
something more stern and splendid than mere kindness: that even the
love between the sexes is, as in Dante, "a lord of terrible aspect."
There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous,
and when kindness (in the sense given above) is separated from the
other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference
to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness
consents very readily to the removal of its object - we have all met
people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill
animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not
whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes
suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled:
the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are
punished (Hebrews 12:8). It is for people whom we care nothing about
that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers,
our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much
than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He
is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears,
from all records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned
us. He has never regard us with contempt. He has paid us the
intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most
inexorable sense. 

C.S. Lewis
The Joyful Christian p.37-39

For more details, on the philosophical response of CS Lewis to the
problem of God and human suffering, see :
Subject: Re: Phrases
From: sook-ga on 24 Aug 2004 18:49 PDT
Thank you.  I thought it might have been older than that.  I can see
why some people say it's rather pedantic.
Subject: Re: Phrases
From: tutuzdad-ga on 24 Aug 2004 19:47 PDT
You were right to. It is older and C S Lewis did not coin the phrase. 

British Poet and Novelist Stevie Smith published a collection of verse
in 1937 entitled "A Good Time was Had By All". I don't know if she
coined the phrase or not but this was well before C S Lewis' book.



If nothing older is found please let me know by posting here.

Subject: Re: Phrases
From: tutuzdad-ga on 24 Aug 2004 19:55 PDT
Here is a letter from an American nurse during the Spanish Civil War
dated June 21, 1937, in which she writes, in part:

"...We invited the boys of the Lincoln Battalion and a good time was had by all."

Spanish Civil War Letters from American Volunteers

Subject: Re: Phrases
From: tutuzdad-ga on 24 Aug 2004 20:15 PDT
In the 1922 autobigraphical writings of Utah Pioneer Lucinda Haws
Holdaway, ther 79 year old author she wrote of her youth (presumably
in her early American vernacular):

"Every one seemed thankful and a good time was had by all."

Pioneer Story of Lucinda Haws Holdaway


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