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 Detective, here’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.