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A good time was had by all

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96

"A jocular coinage that somehow stuck" is just about right.
I quote from Eric Partridge's _A Dictionary of Catch Phrases_

In 1937, the late Miss Stevie Smith's book of verse,
_A Good Time Was Had By All_ appeared; and within five
years in Britain and by 1950 at latest in the US, the
words of the title had become a catch phrase....
Perhaps six months before Stevie Smith's death, I wrote to
her and asked whether she had coined the phrase or
adopted and popularized it. Her explanation was startlingly
simple: she took it from parish magazines, where a church
picnic...or other sociable occasion, almost inevitably
generated the comment, "A good time was had by all."

So a careful search of English parish magazines of the 1930s might
turn up actual spontaneous uses of this sentence. But when I use it
it is somewhat facetious and not grammatically natural. I also
sometimes use expressions like "holier than thou" and "get thee behind
me", but the obsolete second person singular pronoun is not a normal
part of my grammar.

Ross Clark

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