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Q: Origin Of "Don't You Believe It!" In Hollow Voice ??? ( No Answer,   4 Comments )
Subject: Origin Of "Don't You Believe It!" In Hollow Voice ???
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Television
Asked by: grandrascal-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 20 Sep 2006 19:26 PDT
Expires: 20 Oct 2006 19:26 PDT
Question ID: 767133
Title says it all: What's the origin of the phrase "Don't You Believe
It!" said in a hollow voice? It's probably from a commercial, and
probably a RADIO commercial at that -- but a commercial for WHAT? You
hear it from time to time, for example, in cartoons (I can cite at
least two "Tom & Jerry" cartoons where it is used), but I have no idea
what it is a reference to. Exempli gratia: Tom reads from a book which
says, "A cornered mouse NEVER FIGHTS", and attacks a cornered Jerry.
Moments later we see a black-eyed Tom intoning "Don't You Believe
It!". Are there any Old Timers "out there" who can point to a web
reference telling us Unknowing Youngsters the origins of this old

Request for Question Clarification by sublime1-ga on 20 Sep 2006 20:38 PDT

I have no idea if the following is relevant, having not heard the
audio. but the following page lists an old time radio show with
the title, 'Don't you believe it' hosted by Toby Reed:

 1946 10/5/46 The Pygmies Are Not The Smallest People On Earth
 (There Are People In Tibet Only Two Feet Tall!). 
 Labor Unions Did Not Invent Picketing (The Earl Of Essex Invented
 It Three Hundred Years Ago). 
 Cleopatra Was Not A Beautiful Woman (She Was Very Ugly). 
 Marshal Zhukov Was Not The Leading General Of The Russian Armies
 (It Was Boris Shipatnikov).
 Toby Reed Hosts 15 Minutes R 923"

The author of the website seems to be open to requests, and
might be able to validate the origin without sending you an
audio replication:

Let me know where this takes you...


Clarification of Question by grandrascal-ga on 11 Oct 2006 20:41 PDT
sublime1-ga wrote:

"Let me know where this takes you..."

Well, I've joined the Old-Time Radio list and posted my query there,
and so far it hasn't taken me anywhere. I'm still looking, though... 

Request for Question Clarification by sublime1-ga on 12 Oct 2006 19:35 PDT
Did you try just emailing and asking him directly?:

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 12 Oct 2006 20:11 PDT
I have nothing to fully support this theory but here's what I think. I
believe denco-ga is on the track with the first utterance of the
phrase. John Nesbitt was the mysterious announcer who eerily began his
1943 cinema short that debunked historical "facts" with little known
truths, with the line "Don't you believe it". However I think the
origin of the phrase dates back to about 1918 when Robert Ripley
challenged readers of his captioned factoid cartoons to "Believe it or
not". Like most cartoon parodies I suspect that the phrase "Don't you
believe it" (which was actually spoken in the cartoon by William Hanna
himself) was merely a clever spin on the wildly popular and almost
universally familiar Ripley success.

Please let me know if you agree with this theory as an answer in lieu
of tangible evidence.


Clarification of Question by grandrascal-ga on 16 Oct 2006 03:05 PDT
sublime1-ga wrote:

.> Did you try just emailing and asking him directly?:

Well, no; rightly or wrongly, I interpreted your earlier
response as recommending that I join the E-MAIL LIST which
the website referenced. The thought of sending to Tomkle
himself didn't occur to me. Well, it occurs to me now, and
thanks for the suggestion!     :)
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Origin Of "Don't You Believe It!" In Hollow Voice ???
From: pinkfreud-ga on 20 Sep 2006 19:56 PDT
In case this might help anyone, here's a wav file of the line:

Several decades ago, my late father told me that this line was a
catchphrase used by the comedian Jerry Colonna. I haven't found any
authoritative proof of this, however.
Subject: Re: Origin Of "Don't You Believe It!" In Hollow Voice ???
From: denco-ga on 20 Sep 2006 20:43 PDT
Howdy grandrascal-ga,

Hopefully to further the cause is the following.  You are probably familiar
with, and possibly contributory to the first.

Big Cartoon Forum discussion of the topic.

I'm a bit disappointed that no-one has yet nailed the "DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!"
quote. Some of you Yanks must have aged relatives you can pester about this!
It was big enough at the time for it to be topical in 1944, 1951, and 1953.
The only lead I've come across so far (and I think it's probably a false one)
is that in 1943 John Nesbitt made a short (in his series Passing Parade)
called 'DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!' about various urban myths ..."

I don't where the "1944" reference comes from above, but perhaps here.

From the KQEK website - "To Have and Have Not (1944)"

"... and an over-confident son-in-law ('Don't-you-believe-it!') round off the
lunacy ..."

Maybe the above came from the 1943 statement in the first reference.

I did find the following, which takes it all further back than I think others
have been able to reference.

"Radio Research, McCarthyism and Paul F. Lazarsfeld" by Simson L. Garfinkel.

"Semi-serious Programs: This is a miscellaneous group of programs of a
semi-popular nature, variously entitled 'Timely Topics,' 'The Fact
Finder,' 'Don't You Believe It,' etc., which titles are somewhat
self-explanatory. [Lazarsfeld, 1940, p.30]
[Lazarsfeld, 1940] Paul F. Lazarsfeld. Radio and the printed page: an
introduction to the study of radio and its role in the communication
of ideas. Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1940."

So, there must have been a "Don't You Believe it" radio show that pre-dated,
by at least 3 years, John Nesbitt's short of the same name.

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Origin Of "Don't You Believe It!" In Hollow Voice ???
From: denco-ga on 20 Sep 2006 20:53 PDT
Howdy grandrascal-ga,

If you go to the WorldCat website, perhaps you can find a library that has
"Radio and the printed page," so you can reference it.
Subject: Re: Origin Of "Don't You Believe It!" In Hollow Voice ???
From: answerfinder-ga on 21 Sep 2006 02:48 PDT
No information on the hollow voice, but it the phrase often appears in
newspaper adverts.
Here are some links to newspapers at the turn of the late 19th century.

Don?t you believe it - top left hand advert - 1893

Don?t you believe it - top right hand advert - 1908

Don?t you believe it - middle right hand advert  - 1904


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