Date: Sat, 26 Oct 1996 12:00:22 EDT


Subject: No tickee, no washee (fwd)

Forwarded from another list:

According to the -Dictionary of American Proverbs- the earliest recorded

citation of this expression is in Archer Taylor's -The Proverb- (1931).

But here's all he has to say there:

... A few instances will show how erroneous is Tylor's notion that

the age of proverb-making is past. "We can collect and use the old

proverbs," he says, "but making new ones has become a feeble, spiritless

imitation, like our attempts to invent new myths or new nursery

rhymes." Certainly -Put up or shut up!- possesses as much vitality

as can be demanded of a proverb, and from the metaphor we can safely

conclude that it is not many generations old. -No tickee, no washee-,

i.e. 'without the essential prerequisite, a desired object cannot be

obtained,' with its evident allusion to the Chinese laundryman,

bespeaks for itself a still more recent origin.

Mencken, in -The American Language-, renders the "pungent proverb" as

"No tickee, no shirtee," and reminds us that although Chinese lexical

items are scarce in the English language, this remnant of the early

waves of Chinese immigration certainly counts for a great deal.

The Chinese laundry phenomenon is described by Ronald Takaki in

-Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans- (1989).

Pushed out of other occupations, Chinese men retreated into laundry

work to such an extent that, by 1900, one in four employed Chinese males

in the United States was a laundryman, a livelihood that did not exist

in their native country.

Lee Chew, who came to America in the early 1860s, describes (in -The Life

Stories of Undistinguished Americans as Told by Themselves- [1906]) some

of the conditions that existed in the rougher milieus: "We had to put up

with many insults and some frauds, as men would come in and claim parcels

that did not belong to them, saying they had lost their tickets, and would

fight if they did not get what they asked for.... We made plenty of money

in gold dust, but had a hard time, for many of the miners were wild men

who carried revolvers and after drinking would come into our place to

shoot and steal shirts."

Is it then any wonder that Sing Fong, in the Western movie -Tex Rides with

the Boy Scouts- (1937), explains to a claimless customer:

"You bling tickee, you catchem washee."

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