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Old 08-02-2005, 03:21 PM
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Origin of "It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it"


Who first started using this phrase?
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Old 08-02-2005, 03:28 PM
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Well, if prostitution is indeed the world's oldest profession, I surmise an overworked pimp of A. Afarensis.
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Old 08-02-2005, 03:41 PM
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A little voice in my head is telling me that it's from Dirty Harry, but I don't trust it.
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Old 08-02-2005, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thin Lizzy
Who first started using this phrase?
Mike Paton of the band Faith no More was the first person ever to utter this phrase. FACT!
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Old 08-02-2005, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Myler Keogh
Mike Paton of the band Faith no More was the first person ever to utter this phrase. FACT!
I doubt it, Pantera used it in one of their oldschool songs. I think they are older than FNM
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Old 08-02-2005, 03:51 PM
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My gut says: "John Wayne movie."

It should be noted that my gut is largely dedicated to the production of crap, though.
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Old 08-02-2005, 03:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Askia
Well, if prostitution is indeed the world's oldest profession, I surmise an overworked pimp of A. Afarensis.
You know, I just finished The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond, and he discussed sexual habits, but he never mentioned a thing about prostitution. I wonder if there's some site waiting to be investigated, with a female Neanderthal skeleton surrounded by beads and ornaments she earned from working . . .
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Old 08-02-2005, 04:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thin Lizzy
I doubt it, Pantera used it in one of their oldschool songs. I think they are older than FNM
It takes literally seconds to Google Faith No More and Pantera.

Had you have taken the time, you would have learned that Faith No More released "We Care A Lot" in 1985. Further Googling would have revealed that Pantera made their first release, "Cowboys From Hell", in 1990.

As to who first uttered the phrase? No idea, but I bet it was before either 1985 or 1990.
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Old 08-02-2005, 04:27 PM
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It may be that it's just been around as a common phrase, without anyone having first "said" it.

Consider, for instance, this from Charles Dickens in Tale of Two Cities (about Barsad the spy):

Quote:
I admit that I am a spy, and that it is considered a discreditable station -- though it must be filled by somebody.
Different words, but basically the same thought in the same form.
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Old 08-02-2005, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke of Rat
It takes literally seconds to Google Faith No More and Pantera.

Had you have taken the time, you would have learned that Faith No More released "We Care A Lot" in 1985. Further Googling would have revealed that Pantera made their first release, "Cowboys From Hell", in 1990.

As to who first uttered the phrase? No idea, but I bet it was before either 1985 or 1990.
Dude, Pantera released albums starting in 1984. Cowboys from hell was their first major record. I think it was their 4th.

So much for Google.
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Old 08-02-2005, 04:35 PM
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Can't find the origin in a quick online search, but must say my memory goes back way before 1985 and I am not aware of any time I did not know of this phraise.
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Old 08-02-2005, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
Can't find the origin in a quick online search, but must say my memory goes back way before 1985 and I am not aware of any time I did not know of this phraise.
Same here, and I was born in 1961. I suspect it is as charizard suggested: this is an idea that goes way, way back, and no specific origin could be found. For those intent on searching this, remember obvious variations like "...but someone has to do it."
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Old 08-02-2005, 05:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thin Lizzy
Dude, Pantera released albums starting in 1984. Cowboys from hell was their first major record. I think it was their 4th.

So much for Google.
That came from the Pantera.com website, not Google.

Pantera had released independent labels as early as 1983 with differing line-ups.

Faith No More had been around for a couple of years before they released "We Care A Lot" in 1985 (Courtney Love was one of their early singers before they released a major label).

Whether either one uttered the phrase in question is still up to speculation.

All of this information was obtained via Google, took about 2 minutes this time.
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Old 08-02-2005, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
Can't find the origin in a quick online search, but must say my memory goes back way before 1985 and I am not aware of any time I did not know of this phraise.
I specifically remember using it (or something very similar) in 1977, and it was a standard phrase then.
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Old 08-02-2005, 06:23 PM
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It's a Mod mantra.
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Old 08-02-2005, 06:35 PM
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I found it in an episode of Mary Tyler Moore in 1977. So, as Colibri said, it goes back at least that far.
  #17  
Old 08-03-2005, 02:44 AM
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How about this quote from 1957's Sweet Smell of Success?

Steve: It's a dirty job, but I pay clean money for it.
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Old 08-03-2005, 02:53 AM
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Quote:
Dude, Pantera released albums starting in 1984. Cowboys from hell was their first major record. I think it was their 4th.
Ahh, back when he was 'Diamond' Darrel instead of 'Dimebag' and they were a glam rock band.

I was a big Pantera fan when I was younger, but their glam days were disgusting.
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Old 08-03-2005, 09:03 AM
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Somewhere around 1977, I saw a guy with a T-shirt that said: "Oral Sex: It's a dark and dirty job, but somebody's got to do it" so the phrase must have already been old by then. I remember the shirt distinctly because I was young and rather scandalized by it.
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Old 08-03-2005, 10:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
I found it in an episode of Mary Tyler Moore in 1977. So, as Colibri said, it goes back at least that far.
The confluence of cites/recollections from the late 1970s is interesting. I might also say that my impression is that it had not become a widespread catchphrase too much before that (perhaps 5 years or less) because 1977 is the first time I clearly remember it being used. I do not recollect it being a stock phrase in the 1950s or 1960s.
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Old 08-03-2005, 01:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri
The confluence of cites/recollections from the late 1970s is interesting. I might also say that my impression is that it had not become a widespread catchphrase too much before that (perhaps 5 years or less) because 1977 is the first time I clearly remember it being used. I do not recollect it being a stock phrase in the 1950s or 1960s.
I also have the impression that it emerged during the 70s, which is part of the reason for my Dirty Harry WAG (which I have been unable to confirm via Google).
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Old 08-03-2005, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manduck
I also have the impression that it emerged during the 70s, which is part of the reason for my Dirty Harry WAG (which I have been unable to confirm via Google).
As I recall, Clint Eastwood's character in Dirty Harry (which dates from 1971) is asked how he got his nickname. His reply was along the order of "[I get]...every dirty job that comes along."

So if memory serves me right, it's only a partial match.
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Old 08-03-2005, 02:34 PM
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I wonder if there might not be some influence of Superchicken's admonition to his sidekick Fred (c. 1967), "You knew this job was dangerous when you took it!"
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Old 08-03-2005, 02:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kizarvexius
As I recall, Clint Eastwood's character in Dirty Harry (which dates from 1971) is asked how he got his nickname. His reply was along the order of "[I get]...every dirty job that comes along."

So if memory serves me right, it's only a partial match.
http://www.the-dirtiest.com/audio.htm

"Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry...every dirty job that comes along...".

As you say, only a partial match.
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Old 08-03-2005, 05:19 PM
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This came up several times on another message board about phrase origins. Some other ideas are proffered but nothing good enough to be SDMB-GQ definitive

http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_b...ssages/48.html
http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_b...sages/641.html
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Old 08-03-2005, 08:04 PM
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Somebody posted on one web site from Touch of Evil 1958

Quote:
It's a dirty job enforcing the law, but it's what we're supposed to be doing.
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Old 08-03-2005, 10:06 PM
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Let me amend my earlier post about it appearing in an episode of the MTM show.

My find was a column by Gary Deeb, great TV newspaper writer from the times.

This was about the premier episode of "The Betty White Show," a spinoff from the popular and literate Mary Tyler Moore show. It was from the MTM factory. Written by David Lloyd. The factory had written such tv hits as The Mary Tyler Moore show, Bob Newhart, and Tony Randall shows.

This first episode, written by Lloyd, who also wrote the classic "Chuckles the Clown" episode, flat-out has Betty saying "Yes, dear--it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it."

To anyone who watched that show, and other MTM shows from the period, it's not hard to imagine that the writers invented the exact phrase. CBS comedy at the time ruled the roost. They were the most literate of comedies on TV.

[* Also, let me say that posters who have found similar expressions are doing a great service. The thought was out there before 1977.]
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Old 08-04-2005, 06:22 AM
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Thanks to the help of Doug Wilson and Ben Zimmer over at the American Dialect Society, I now have the final answer.

Mike Connors played Nick Stone in a 1959-60 tv series called "Tightrope." He was a detective playing an undercover cop. At the end of the show, he'd say "It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it."

Connors is probably better known for his later "Mannix" series. The info was found in a 1972 interview with Connors.
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