Sunday, October 27, 2013

See You In the Funny Paper

Sometimes you repeat a word or phrase – one that you haven’t used, or even heard in many years – and are left wondering, “Now what made me think of that?”

It happened today as I was leaving my mother’s house. Instead of the usual, “see you later” or bye” as I left, out came “I’ll see you in the funny paper.”

You may or may not be familiar with this phrase as words of parting. But it was in common usage at the house where I grew up.

Saying it today after not having uttered it in too many years to count not only made me question why it resurfaced after all these years, but also how it came to be used this way.

After a bit of reading at the Word Detectivehere’s what I learned about the etymology of the phrase:

"It is a jocular farewell that dates, as far as anyone has been able to determine, to the early years of the 20th century, probably the early 1920s because the term “funny papers/pages/sheet” itself apparently didn’t appear in print until roughly that time. 

A glossary of humor published in 1926 included 'See you in the funny sheet,' and William Faulkner also used the phrase in his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury ('Ta-ta see you in the funnypaper'), so it must have been widespread by that time. 

One reason that 'See you in the funny papers' sounds so dated to us today is because 'funny papers/pages/sheets' was eventually largely replaced by the term 'comics' for that part of the newspaper, a process that probably began in the 1940s and was complete by the 1960s.

The interesting thing about 'see you in the funny papers” is that originally it may not have been a very friendly thing to say. Saying “see you in the newspaper' or 'See you in jail' when parting, for example, carried the sardonic implication that the person being addressed would next be heard of for committing a crime or attaining some other newsworthy notoriety. 

Similarly, the original intent of 'See you in the funny papers' was probably to imply that the speaker considered the person either so ridiculous or so odd in appearance as to belong in a comic strip.

By the 1940s, however, 'see you in the funny papers' had become so common that it lost whatever hostile edge it had and became a good-natured humorous farewell. If 'see you in the funny pages' had any deeper implication after that time, it was that life in general was as silly as the Sunday comics section.

Are you familiar with this usage of the phrase as a goodbye term?

And on a similar topic, what comic strips did you read and enjoy when you were a kid?  My favorites were Priscilla's Pop, Blondie and most of all, Peanuts and Charlie Brown. In the 1970s I became addicted to Doonesbury.


  1. My reply to you is a dull one, sorry..
    I have never heard the mentioned term used, but am delighted to now know the history of it.
    And to the comics, in my childhood, my mother did not approve. me reading them, so I didn´t.
    By the time I lived on my own, I tried to catch up, only I noticed that entering the " third box ", I didn´t remember what had happened in the two earlier. Therefore, I quit " reading " them completely.
    I don´t even " see " any fun in them.
    Sorry for being a downer on this one ( :
    P.S. But - you just gave me an idea for a post to be written sometime in the future : )!

    1. No reply is ever a dull reply; love them all. Well, not such a great loss, in the big scheme of things, that you missed out on the newspaper comics. But they were certainly something I was devoted to as a child. There were so few other forms of entertainment on a daily basis contributed to the interest I'm sure.

  2. I have never heard this term either, Sanda. But I do remember the comics in the newspaper being called the 'funnies'. From when I first learned to read, age about 6, I read Blondie and a few other similar strips every day. Still reading that same newspaper, delivered each morning onto the front lawn. I wonder how long this practice will continue, with news being distributed online more and more.

    1. At least your daily newspaper is still up and running after all the changes in the industry. The daily newspaper delivery was a much anticipated event when I was growing up. I read the funnies religiously each day, and on Sunday, when they were a separate section, and in COLOR,..ah that was bliss! Like you I wonder if we will eventually see a hard-copy newspaper no more. Hope not.

  3. I have never heard the term. When i was a child.. i would read the comics. On a saturday morning.. it was free cinema for the children. We used to take our comics to exchange.. it was such fun. no mobile fones or tv.
    When i first heard the American term "break a leg".. i thought. gosh, what an awful thing to say to someone. Now I know what it means.. we use it within the family now and again.
    All the fun of the newspapers and comics for children and us.. has been taken over by the internet.
    nice post Sanda. "See you in the papers"
    xx val

    1. I suppose every family has it's own group of little sayings (some quite nonsensical) and this was one of ours. Oh yes, I remember the comic book swaps, too. Loved Nancy, Archie and Red Ryder comic books.
      Oh, now you have me wondering about the break a leg term. Have heard it but can't quite make a connection. I shall go look it up.
      Yes, childhood is quite different now, what with all the technology.

  4. Oh goodness, that takes me back, LOL! While I don't recall the saying being used in our family it is still very familiar. Thanks for the history. I didn't read the funnypaper all that often and never was a fan of comic books. My brother had lots of them though.


    1. I understand comic books are big business these days: selling/buying the antique ones. Unfortunately, mine are long gone == to where I'm not sure.

  5. Never heard this term before,but it reminds me of a not very nice saying...."See you in the funny house" referring to a mental hospital.
    Never had comics as a child,never knew anyone that did! Have heard the word "funnies" used about newspaper strips.
    Enjoy the interesting items you post about.

    1. Oh, that's a good one and I have heard it too!! Did your daily newspaper not have a comic page each day? Perhaps it was only in this country? Thank you, and I'm pleased you enjoy the posts, Ida!

  6. As entertainment, I think Dilbert can't be beat. When I was a child, we couldn't afford to buy the paper, but on the odd occasion at my grandparents, I would read all the comics. Didn't like the serialized ones, like Mary Worth, Prince Valiant, Apartment 3G, since I never knew when I might get to read them again.
    I remember that term, but it was only used as a insult in my mother's family.

    1. Beryl! So good to see you back here. I had missed you, and wondered where in the world you were. Yes, Dilbert is a very good one. I consider it an adult comic, but youngsters are so sophisticated these days I suppose they too enjoy him.

  7. Oh well I remember the phrase. You remember all the good stuff. I liked Priscillas Poor and Blondie and Dagwood. Thanks for your memories.


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