Question for Dopers of all ages:

Just out of curiosity, how many of you know what a “McGee’s closet” is without having to look it up? :dubious:

I remember explaining it to a foreigner a while back, and having to tell her “It was before my time.” But I still knew what it was from a book I read in sixth grade (The Mad Scientists’ Club).

If you do know the meaning of the term, how many of you can tell me its origin (in spoiler boxes, of course)?

No - I had to look it up. But then, it is an Americanism.

No, I don’t know what it is. Sorry!

I am familiar with the term “Fibber McGee’s closet”, which my father used to refer to anything that was a jumbled, disorganized mess. It comes from a radio show called Fibber McGee and Molly that aired until 1959. Fibber had a closet that was a running gag. Whenever anyone opened it, the sound of stuff loudly cascading out of the closet was heard.

Is that what you are talking about?

ETA: I am 61.

Since you’ve already looked it up, had you ever heard of its source before?

Yes, that’s right! :smiley:

Since the cat is already out of the bag, let me add that in my understanding it’s also anything you can reach into and grab whatever it is you need, no matter how bizarre or exotic. That was the way the term was used in the book I read:

“Henry’s duffel bag is a real McGee’s closet.”

Sorry about briefly exposing the answer without spoilers. I managed to get the spoiler inserted before the edit window ended, and now your quote unspoilers it again! All my fault. Sorry about that.

Now back to your topic. The way my father used it, I didn’t get the sense that the term described a place where anything, no matter how weird, could be found. It was a place where, if you tried to extract one thing, or sometimes if you simply opened the door, all manner of things would come crashing down.

I never heard the show myself.

I’d never heard the term, but having now read the explanation, it sounds much like what we now call Hammerspace.

No, it was completely new to me.

Never heard of it.

I’m old, so yes. Not old enough to been around back in the day, but I’ve heard it on those “Old Time Radio Hour” shows - on the radio! - broadcast late at night while driving home. And through reading about the history of radio, how they did special effects noises live on the air, etc.

I’m 51, never heard the term but I recognized it when described.

I often think “Fibber McGee’s closet” when I open the little cabinet door in my kitchen and all the badly stacked plastic containers come spilling out. I knew that it was in a reference to an old radio show, but I’ve never actually heard the show itself and couldn’t tell you anything else about it. I must have picked up the phrase from my parents or grandparents.

  1. Never heard anyone actually use that phrase that I can recall, but I know about Fibber McGee’s closet, and have heard a sample of the radio show. My mother sometimes uses the catch phrase “Tain’t funny, McGee.”

When I read “McGee’s closet” in the OP, I knew what it was referring to, but it took me a few seconds. If you’d said “Fibber McGee’s closet” I’d have known it right away.

I never heard the show (I’m 49), but I remember my mother explaining the meaning of the phrase once when I was young.


I learned it as a kid in the 60s. McGee was long gone by that time, but my mother mentioned it when discussing my room.

I never heard of the term, even after hearing what it means (I never heard of hammerspace either). I did find a song by that name from the early 1900s by Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy’s older brother, so that might indicate when the term was popular.

I’m 53. Both parents were born and raised in the Philippines so that may be why I’d never heard of it, it might be more of an American thing, or maybe British Isles.

No idea.