Origin of the "get off my lawn" meme

I found myself using “get off my lawn” today as shorthand for “yeah, I know I’m old and you guys are much younger and more hip than me.” I think this is a fairly well known meme – Urban Dictionary has a page on it.

I’m wondering if anyone knows the origin of this phrase?

This is more of a general question, but I’m assuiming it was some movie/TV show that led to the development of the phrase, so I thought I’d get more traction in Cafe Society. Plus, I don’t really know if a factual answer exists, so speculation is welcome too.

It comes from thousands of old people across genreations getting thier patties in a wad at kids playing in/crossing through thier yards.

Datum: Kathy and Judy from WGN Radio in Chicago used that line from at least the mid 90’s. That’s my strongest, earliest memory of the phrase.

I can date it back as far as the Turf Protection Law passed by Congress in 1876. I like to think it started there.

That was based on the Dredd Scott’s Turf Builder case, right?

Anyway, I remember when my family first got our golden retriever I was walking her through someone’s yard and he yelled at me to get off his lawn.

That would have been about 1971 and I have no reason to think he made it up.

This is what I would assume. Growing up as a child of the 80s in a neighborhood where at least half the block’s residents were in their 60s or 70s, I had more than once been yelled at to keep off somebody’s lawn. It was probably more usually phrased as “hey, kid, keep off the grass!!” but same sentiment.

The meme goes back decades. I have seen it on TV sitcom re-runs from the 50’s.

  1. In fact, the anniversary is coming up next month.

Perhaps the question should be, when did the phrase become shorthand for something an old person set in their ways and uncomfortable with novelty would say? Because that is how Kathy & Judy used the phrase on their radio show (not that I’m saying they originated it).

I would also say it was something Old people yelled at kids since the beginning of suburbia but I would guess it entered the public consciousness from Dennis the Menace and similar 50s sitcoms.


A parallel concept is the “Posted” or “No Trespassing” sign warning intruders away.

I especially dislike people letting their dog shit in my yard, even if it’s down near the street.

I never heard the exact phrasing until Gran Torino.

Google Books shows that line used in one of the stories Simple’s Uncle Sam by Langston Hughes (1965) but I can’t see enough context to know for sure if it is appropriate but it seems to be something shouted to a boy while retrieving a baseball from someone else’s yard.

It finds several earlier uses of the phrase but none that look to be similar to the usage here.

This is how you say
Get Off My Lawn

Wikipedia ascribes it to David Letterman and I believe that they’re correct. He may not have coined the phrase but I think he popularized it.

Well, variations like “Ya’ll get off ma propitty! Damnfool kids!” go way, way back.

I was actually told by an old man, “Goddamn kids get off my lawn. The next time you go through my yard, you go around!”

I was a city kid, so I related more to the Beatles’ repeated quip in Hard Day’s Night.
"Hey Mister, can we have our ball back?"
That is, in the urban setting where I grew up, we didn’t have lawns… but if we were playing stickball in the street or in the schoolyard, we’d regularly knock a Spaldeen (a pink rubber ball made by Spalding) over some cranky old man’s fence, and would have to utter that line (or just climb over the fence and grab it before he came out of the house).

**Origin of the “get off my lawn” meme **

I think my uncle started it.