Cosby says to himself, "Self"?

1286 views
Skip to first unread message

Ben Zimmer

unread,
Nov 21, 2005, 9:25:37 PM11/21/05
to
Does anyone recall a Bill Cosby routine from the 1960s where he has a
conversation with himself that goes, "So I said to myself, 'Self...'"?

This bit has been widely imitated, and I'm trying to trace the origin of
it. Would appreciate finding out which of his albums from the '60s this
might appear on, or any other information on the bit. Thanks.

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 12:49:10 AM11/22/05
to

Ben Zimmer wrote:


I hope you're not serious. I believe that expression has been
around a while as I seem to recall seeing it in movies from the 40s.
If my memory serves me correct (I could be wrong), that means that the
phrase might have existed even before the 40s. Anyway, that's not the
point. It's obvious you that like Bill Cosby. Maybe his routine was
funny. I'm not putting the guy down (at this moment) - but I don't
think the phrase is his. Which doesn't mean it can't be funny, or that
he couldn't take that phrase, or any phrase, and make it funny. He's
entitled to do that. I'm just trying to tell you that maybe he used
the phrase in an original way, but I don't think the phrase itself is
his, or anybody's. I sincerely doubt that it would be possible to
trace the orginator of such a common phrase. This phrase was probably
used by countless thousands of people long before it was first heard in
a movie or a comedy routine.

Tommy Joe ("So I said to Ben Zimmer, 'Ben'")

Ben Zimmer

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 3:03:58 AM11/22/05
to

Yes, if I had to guess, I'd think that the "Self..." bit has been around
since the vaudeville era. But I've posted the query to several lists,
and the earliest examples anyone's found are from the '80s. One person
suggested that it was used in a Cosby routine in the '60s, so that's why
I'm posting here. Here are two more people who remember Cosby using it:

-----
http://www.usm.maine.edu/~com/intrabook/part3~1.html
Years ago Bill Cosby had a comedy routine which portrayed self-talk very
humorously with the line, "So, I said to myself, 'Self'. . ."
-----
http://www.swordofthespirit.org/teachings/transcript/3223.html
I like that Bill Cosby record, you remember that? Where he, "I said to
myself, 'Self.'"
-----

But hey, if anyone can verify that the line was used in a movie or
comedy routine before Cosby in the '60s, all the better. I have no
particular allegiance to Cosby's comedic stylings.

Message has been deleted

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 3:48:55 AM11/22/05
to
Ben Zimmer wrote:

> Yes, if I had to guess, I'd think that the "Self..." bit has been around
> since the vaudeville era. But I've posted the query to several lists,
> and the earliest examples anyone's found are from the '80s. One person
> suggested that it was used in a Cosby routine in the '60s, so that's why
> I'm posting here. Here are two more people who remember Cosby using it:

> But hey, if anyone can verify that the line was used in a movie or


> comedy routine before Cosby in the '60s, all the better. I have no
> particular allegiance to Cosby's comedic stylings.


Thanks for your response. Sorry, I have a habit of reading people's
posts and responding only to certain parts that interest me, rather
than responding directly to the writer's overall intent. I'm not
interested enough in Cosby to conduct a search for the origin of the
phrase "I said to myself, Self". If you know for sure that it existed
before Cosby, what difference does it make when it was first used?

Well, of course it would make a difference for someone who cares
about such things, so I'm not ridiculing that at all. But, to conduct
an honest and thorough search of such a phrase would take more time
than most of us have. Maybe it's time to create a software program
filled with nothing but movie data - everything cross-indexed to the
nth degree - so that everything ever said in talking movies can be
found by simply typing in the phrase. Maybe it's already been done.
If not, that might be a great way for someone with time on their hands
to make some spare money.

Thanks for your response. I'm glad you saw my post for what it
was. I'm only saying that even if someone can prove when the phrase
was first used in a movie or in audio, that still doesn't show when the
phrase first came into being, or when it was first heard in a setting
reserved for entertainment, such as a stage, long before before film
and audio came around.

Tommy Joe (I said it first)

lap...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 3:52:57 AM11/22/05
to

The bit is from Cosby's album "Wonderfulness" and is called "Niagara
Falls". In it, Cosby impersonates producer Sheldon Leonard, telling
the story about swimming in the lake that forms at the base of Niagara
Falls. Leonard apparently used the phrase, "So I say to myself,
"Self"..." quite a bit. It's a funny routine.

Ben Zimmer

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 4:17:28 AM11/22/05
to
lap...@aol.com wrote:

I just downloaded "Wonderfulness" from a P2P network and listened to the
"Niagara Falls" track, but I didn't hear Cosby use "So I said to myself,
'Self...'" Early in the routine Cosby has Sheldon saying, "So I said to
my bride, 'Bride...'" Later, Cosby-as-Sheldon says, "And I said to
myself, 'Why should I tell her?'" Both of these are close but no cigar--
I'm looking specifically for someone addressing himself as "Self".

Is it possible that a more extended version of the "Niagara Falls"
routine appears elsewhere?

lap...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 4:42:48 AM11/22/05
to
That's probably the full routine. I haven't listened to the album in a
while, so maybe I'm confusing the Self line with the bride line. Sorry
that wasn't it.

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 4:47:42 AM11/22/05
to
Ben Zimmer wrote:

> I just downloaded "Wonderfulness" from a P2P network and listened to the
> "Niagara Falls" track, but I didn't hear Cosby use "So I said to myself,
> 'Self...'" Early in the routine Cosby has Sheldon saying, "So I said to
> my bride, 'Bride...'" Later, Cosby-as-Sheldon says, "And I said to
> myself, 'Why should I tell her?'" Both of these are close but no cigar--
> I'm looking specifically for someone addressing himself as "Self".
>
> Is it possible that a more extended version of the "Niagara Falls"
> routine appears elsewhere?


I really don't care when the phrase was first used or if Cosby used
it in a routine. I can easily imagine hearing this from someone like
Jimmy Durante or William Demerest or someone from that era, and in fact
I have vague memories of hearing this from a long time before Cosby
came around. So, why is it so important, the phrase itself, I mean?
I'm genuinely curious. Are you more concerned with the routine in
which this phrase was purportedly used, or the phrase itself? I must
know why. One day, if I really dedicate myself to the project, I will
prove beyond a doubt that research is absolutely unnecessary.

Tommy Joe

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 4:52:08 AM11/22/05
to
Ben Zimmer wrote:

> Is it possible that a more extended version of the "Niagara Falls"
> routine appears elsewhere?


Yes, at the bottom of Lake Erie? Or was it Lake Ontario? Dammit,
where's that Atlas when I need it?

Tommy Joe

CHAFEY BRASSIERE

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 5:41:50 AM11/22/05
to
Tommy, are you too lazy or too stupid
to do a Google-Search for such
things!? It would only take a
few seconds, for God's
Bloody Ass Sakes!!
Sheesh.


HERE....!!....--:


http://www.niagarafallslive.com/Facts_about_Niagara_Falls.htm


I mean, DUDE, you are ON-LINE
quite a (BLOODY!!)
fucking lot, so,
why not LEARN
to utilize the tools!?!?
You don't
fucking NEED
a "real-life"
ATLAS nor a
DICTIONARY!!
You have tons
of INFO at your
"quick-as-a-click"
DISPOSAL....!!
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?
HELLO!?


Yours (Bloody!!) Truly,
Chafey....AKA....David
Copyright 2005

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 6:17:04 AM11/22/05
to
Chafey,

The extra long style of your post forces me to top post (hate that
term). Yes, you are correct, I am not very familiar with the tools
offered on the net and don't use them enough. However, there is much
benefit to an actual in-hand Atlas that can be carried anywhere. I
have an Atlas. It's a large lightweight travel edition, easy to pick
up and look at. But I did not consult my Atlas this time.

I know that Lake Ontario is north of the falls and Lake Erie is to
the south. I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that since most rivers
run south, the water comes from Lake Ontario. But I don't really give
a shit about the falls, and probably never will, until one day I pick
up a newspaper and read about Chafey Brassiere getting cliff-pushed
into the roiling waters of the mighty Niagra by someone he pushed too
far on his radio show. Chafey, I am one of the few people in here who
doesn't bug you every day about whether your radio show is real or not.
You have never given me credit for that. You DESERVE to be pushed off
Niagra Falls.

Tommy Joe

CHAFEY BRASSIERE

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 6:21:11 AM11/22/05
to
Tommy, are you too lazy or too stupid
to do a Google-Search for such
things!? It would only take a
few seconds, for God's
Bloody Ass Sakes!!
Sheesh.


HERE....!!....--:


http://www.niagarafallslive.com/Facts_about_Niagara_Falls.htm


I mean, DUDE, you are ON-LINE
quite a (BLOODY!!)
fucking lot, so,
why not LEARN
to utilize the tools!?!?
You don't
fucking NEED
a "real-life"

ATLAS or an
ENCYCLOPEDIA
NOR DO YOU
NEED a "real-life"
DICTIONARY,
etc., etc., etc.!!

WOW, What an ASSHOLE

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 6:53:09 AM11/22/05
to
just repeated chafey posts. ASSHOLE


Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 6:54:36 AM11/22/05
to
Tommy Joe wrote:

> Chafey, I am one of the few people in here who doesn't bug you every day about whether your radio show is real or not. You have never given me credit for that. You DESERVE to be pushed off Niagra Falls.


In the past, in this newsgroup, you have many times demonstrated
your love for the American way of life, particularly the voting
process. Therefore, when you get pushed into the falls, I'm hoping it
happens on the American side.

Tommy Joe

OllieN...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 8:11:46 AM11/22/05
to
Bill Cosby was the first black man to say it in front of a white
audience. White people loved Bill Cosby talking about being poor in
the ghetto in a funny likable way. Then in 3 years the blacks were
burning down the cities. I miss the 60's.

OllieN...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 8:12:50 AM11/22/05
to
The date on this post was NOV 22... Reminds me this is happy dead
kennedy day.

Ben Zimmer

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 8:26:10 AM11/22/05
to
Tommy Joe wrote:

Believe it or not, there are people who care about such minutiae. Here's
a recent post of mine about the "Self" expression on the Language Log:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002658.html

It's surprising to me that no one can find firm attestations before the
'80s. If it really was used by someone like Jimmy Durante (he was
actually one of my candidates for a likely originator, along with Red
Skelton and other old-time comics), then there probably would be some
record of that. These days, one can search for expressions like this in
digital newspaper databases (e.g., Proquest, which has the complete run
of the New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.). So if it's a
Durante-ism, for instance, then we would expect someone -- an
entertainment columnist, say -- to have mentioned the expression
somewhere along the line.

On the other hand, it's possible that it simply *sounds* like an old
vaudeville line and is in fact relatively new. That's of interest, too,
to people like me who track the usage of words and phrases in American
English. So I'm just chasing down leads at this point, and the best lead
I have for pre-1980 usage of this expression is the recollection of some
people that Bill Cosby used it on one of his recordings in the '60s.
Even if Cosby wasn't the originator of the "Self" line, he could very
well have brought it to a large enough audience for it to seep into
everyday usage. Or he could have just said similar things, allowing
people to *think* they've heard it from Cosby. Either way, it's become a
very popular turn of phrase over the past five or ten years (popping up
everywhere from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to Emeril Lagasse's show on
the Food Network).

Hope that's an acceptable explanation!

CHAFEY BRASSIERE

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 8:41:39 AM11/22/05
to
First off, the only reason YOU don't "bug me"
about my radio shows, is because you are
very jealous I have them. And, even
MORE jealous, when others'
obsessions about my radio
shows, take away from
your "face time" (so to
speak), on this
newsgroup. So,
OF COURSE,
you don't want
to bring THAT
up, because you
know it will ALWAYS
lead to people talking
more and more about
ME, and, less and less
about YOU!! That's
why it surely "bugs"
YOU way more
than it could ever
"bug" ME!! I enjoy
the attention. And
I think it's funny
when people
"challenge" me, or
pretend to "doubt"
this or that about
me. Oh, sure, I,
sometimes,
get bored with
being pestered
about it, but,
I'm flattered by
it, nonetheless.


So, anywho, Tommy, you are NOT doing
that for any kind of selfless, good-hearted
reason. You don't bring my radio shows
up, for a purely selfish reason. Because
you KNOW, those discussions take
away from your virtual "face time"
here. Plain and simple. End of
story. Period.


And, finally, I can see that I hurt your feelings by merely pointing-out
the obvious, in
regards to the 'Niagara Falls' dealy.
Dude, you are being very
defensive. The point is--:
When you are ONLINE
learn to utilize the tools
that are a mere click
away. It doesn't matter
what you might use
in a car (on a trip)
or whatever.
That wasn't
my point.

uncle-...@priest.com

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 6:58:23 PM11/22/05
to

CHAFEY BRASSIERE wrote:
>.............. for God's
> Bloody Ass Sakes!!
> Sheesh.

...we're all here, Davey boy, just nobody's listening... as usual.

uncle-drooly

CHAFEY BRASSIERE

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 8:36:19 PM11/22/05
to
Sorry, "V.B.//Y.S.//U.D.//WOW", I wasn't
talking to you, dude. But, I am SURE
"ALL" of you WERE "listening",
nonetheless, you jealously
obsessed little
gimp.

WOW, What an ASSHOLE

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 8:51:07 PM11/22/05
to
yeah-sure


JJayBoyd

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 9:03:59 PM11/22/05
to
thats a great bit... I love Bill Cosby's stand up... Listening to him
is like listening to a verbal concert.. the man knew how to use not
only words.. but time, meter, tone and pitch to tell his story and to
paint his mental picture...

JJayBoyd

uncle-...@priest.com

unread,
Nov 22, 2005, 11:02:50 PM11/22/05
to

CHAFEY BRASSIERE wrote:
> Sorry, "V.B.//Y.S.//U.D.//WOW", I'm
> on the air right now.

Daveypoo... when are you going to tell us about the radio show?

uncle-drooly

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 12:24:26 AM11/23/05
to

OllieN...@aol.com wrote:

> The date on this post was NOV 22... Reminds me this is happy dead kennedy day.


Think about it Ollie, approximately 1 in every 365 people on earth
were born on the same day that Kennedy died. Eerie, man, really eerie.
An equal number of people were born on the day John Garfield died,
also assasinated. In fact, since the beginning of time enough famous
people have been assassinated to cover all the calendar days of the
year, meaning every living person shares a birthday with a famous
person who has died by way of assassination. We are alive and they are
dead. That means we helped kill them. I'm just kidding. What it
really means is that all of us are interlinked - rich and poor - black
and white - united as one - the brotherhood of mankind - and don't you
ever forget it, punk.

Tommy Joe

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 1:42:16 AM11/23/05
to

> On the other hand, it's possible that it simply *sounds* like an old
> vaudeville line and is in fact relatively new. That's of interest, too,
> to people like me who track the usage of words and phrases in American
> English.

I share your interest in expressions and phrases, but not with
this particular phrase. I just don't care that much because I think
I've heard it many times by many people over the years. Even that
phrase I just used - 'over the years' - even that is vague and
misleading. It's like, "I'll be there 'soon'", or, "I'll see you
'shortly'."....What the hell is that supposed to mean, exactly? Both
of those words, and a few others, should be defined in the dictionary
as 'words used by people who are beating around the bush', (another
expression for you).

So, in that sense, my version of 'over the years' is just that -
a version - because 'over the years' covers a lot of time. I don't
recall precisely when I first heard the 'Self' expression because I
didn't make a note of it. Maybe you're right. Maybe I heard it only
recently and only think I heard it longer ago. That's possible. But I
doubt it. All I'm saying is, in this case you will probably encounter
more than one answer, maybe hundreds of them. Which will you choose,
if any? I think if there's a definitive answer it shouldn't be so hard
to find. But I could be wrong.

Another interesting thing about expressions and phrases is that we
use many of them every day and don't have any idea what they mean. We
know what they denote, but we don't know what they mean - many of them.
For instance, "Holy shit!"...(just one example).....what the hell is
that supposed to mean, exactly?

The original meanings are lost on us but we continue to use some
phrases because we grew up with them. I have to give credit to
expressions that stick around a while. Some of them are really good.
Some are generational and don't stick around long. Now, with tv (as
you mentioned), any expression can be made popular just by using it
over and over again, which doesn't necessarily indicate that it's a
worthy expression, only that it was used on a successful tv show, and
now other shows are going to use it as well so maybe they can be
successful too. There are a lot of copy cats in the entertainment
industry, as in all industries, no doubt.

Tommy Joe

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 1:52:17 AM11/23/05
to

Finally I have found the answer to who first used the "Self"
expression. It was Art Carney in a Honeymooners episode from 1955. I
found this information on the internet. I tried to copy the, but at
just that moment the screen went blank. Then I tried to get back into
the site and a note kept popping up saying, "No Such Site Exists".
This makes me sick. I finally find the answer and can't prove it to
anybody. This kind of stuff always happens to me. I'm not going to
look for stuff anymore.

Tommy Joe

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 1:55:34 AM11/23/05
to

CHAFEY BRASSIERE wrote:

> The point is--: When you are ONLINE learn to utilize the tools that are a mere click away. It doesn't matter what you might use in a car (on a trip) or whatever. That wasn't my point.


No, it was my point, and my point is more important than yours.

Tommy Joe

lap...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 11:55:47 AM11/23/05
to
Slappy Joe types:

>What it really means is that all of us are interlinked - rich and poor - black
>and white - united as one - the brotherhood of mankind - and don't you
>ever forget it, punk.


Your "style" is so fucking predictible, it's pathetic. Every post has
the same formula - ramble on about whatever the topic is for line after
line, with no real rhyme or reason. Then at the end of every post, you
reiterate whatever the point is you're started with, and then your last
line is the old twisteroo.

As above: "We're all united (twisteroo) - and don't forget it, punk."

>From another sample post: "We all want to live (twisteroo) and that's
what's killing us."

It's boring. It's an often-repeated pattern that might be funny once
or twice, but every post? Fuck, no. Learn how to write something
other than this fucked-up overdone hackneyed bullshit. Better yet,
learn how to write.

OllieN...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 1:23:02 PM11/23/05
to
I finfd it odd (or strange ( or weird ) ) that you are obsessed with
Tommy Joe. You have analyzed his writing style and archive his
writings for reference. I find his posts often have a 'formula' but
everybody does. Are you jealous cause no one will take the time to
dissect and inspect each of your posts?

lap...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 23, 2005, 2:36:21 PM11/23/05
to
OllieNort...@aol.com wrwites:

>Are you jealous cause no one will take the time to
>dissect and inspect each of your posts?


Not even close, Fuckface!!!!

Tommy Joe

unread,
Nov 24, 2005, 8:47:48 AM11/24/05
to

OllieN...@aol.com wrote:


Excellent, Ollie. Yes, my posts (some of them), have a formula to
them, not that I consciously use it. It's just that my whole life is a
formula. Now I'm getting tired and I guess it's time for bed. That's
part of the formula too. Tomorrow, if I'm still alive, I'll get up and
go to work. More formula.

Tommy Joe

lap...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 24, 2005, 11:28:03 AM11/24/05
to
Slappy Joe types:

>More formula.


You heard the baby! More formula!

Message has been deleted

ryanse...@gmail.com

unread,
Nov 4, 2017, 11:31:28 PM11/4/17
to
On Monday, November 21, 2005 at 7:25:37 PM UTC-7, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> Does anyone recall a Bill Cosby routine from the 1960s where he has a
> conversation with himself that goes, "So I said to myself, 'Self...'"?
>
> This bit has been widely imitated, and I'm trying to trace the origin of
> it. Would appreciate finding out which of his albums from the '60s this
> might appear on, or any other information on the bit. Thanks.

Hey Ben, this may sound surprising but I believe the saying actually originated from around the 1st century A.D. and was said by the ever-existent, lord of the universe, through whom all things were made: Jesus. He was telling a story about a rich man talking to himself. The story is recorded in the 12th chapter of Luke (the saying itself is in the 19th verse). Click here to see the Greek alongside the English -> http://biblehub.com/interlinear/luke/12-19.htm
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages