Date: 4/20/95 9:04 AM
To: Grant Barrett
From: American Dialect Society
OK, so I was wrong about the Laugh-In connection, but it appears that (at least
from the time of the e. e. cummings quote) a (horse's) patoot(ie) was indeed
the hindquarters of the relevant animal, hence 'you bet your sweet patootie'.
Here's an interesting speculation on its source from someone off-list (Barbara
Abbott, Michigan State U.):
I do remember "You bet your sweet patootie", and I never saw Laugh-In.
(I've also heard "You bet your sweet bippie" though too -- maybe from
people who did see Laugh-In.) Anyway, I always thought patootie meant rear
end, but maybe there's another etymology. That first phrase (from David
Bergdahl) about a horse's patoot made me think they were referring to road
apples (similar (in substance if not form) to what we used to call "cow
pies"), and why not call them horse potatoes (they look more like potatoes
than apples anyway!)? From there ("horse's patootie") it would be a
natural blunder to reconstrue "patootie"/"patoot" as rear end, and
something worthy of betting.
Sounds good to me. And let it no longer be said that I don't know my bippy
from my patootie.