Mutt and Jeff


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Mutt and Jeff'?

When written and pronounced as Mutt ‘n’ Jeff this has the meaning deaf. It is also a slang term for the ‘good cop/bad cop’ method of police interrogation or any other pair of people or items which are contrasting in size or nature.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Mutt and Jeff'?

The Mutt ‘n’ Jeff variant is is a nice example of Cockney rhyming slang. It originated with that meaning in the UK in the 1960s and is sometimes shortened just to ‘mutton’. Both forms of the phrase derive from Mutt and Jeff – characters in a comic strip created by Bud Fisher in 1907.

The other meanings that relate to variable size etc. allude to the fact that in the Mutt and Jeff cartoons one was tall and the other short. Fisher built a successful career from drawing the comic strip and he produced this cartoon of himself with Mutt and Jeff, captioned ‘The Three of Us’, in 1912.

Trend of mutt and jeff in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.