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Don't tear the rabbit

Posted by R. Berg on July 29, 2003

In Reply to: Dont tear the rabbit posted by ESC on July 28, 2003

: : : : Punctuation correction: It was a gentle instruction, not a question.

: : : : : When I was a young child I would sometimes visit my grandparents in their flat in Cape Town. Invariably at some point during each visit (often, I think, as I was about to leave) my grandfather would say to me, "Don't forget to thank your mother for the rabbit." At the time it seemed simply one of his endearing peculiarities, but in later years I've wondered if it might in fact be an expression in wider use. Any ideas what it might mean or how or where it originated?

: : : From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:

: : : "'thank your mother for the rabbit' was brought to my attention by the late Frank Shaw in 1969, but without definition, date, milieu. I suspect that it belongs to the same class as 'don't tear it, lady!', i.e. street vendors' humour; that it is Cockney; and that it arose late in C19."

: : Now I'm doubly befuddled: I don't know the meaning of either catch phrase.

: Shake it but don't break it. It took nine months to make it. (Along those lines?)

I don't know what it means, either, and Partridge doesn't say. "Thank your mother for the rabbit" does sound like something that could catch on as a joking way to take leave of somebody.

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