Heavens to mergatroid!
November 8, 2002 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Heavens to mergatroid! Who, what, or where is mergatroid? (Or is it murgatroid?) In what way does it relate to Heaven? Maybe it's an angelic sound.
posted by mrmanley (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not a good post for metafilter. It belongs on memepool, or somewhere that obscure post descriptions are appreciated. Here, we expect you to explain what the post is and why we should read it.
posted by Raichle at 10:39 AM on November 8, 2002

It's actually Murgatroyd, and according to this guy, it was the name of the butler in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta...
posted by baylink at 10:40 AM on November 8, 2002

This is not a good post for metafilter. Here, we expect you to explain what the post is and why we should read it.

All my previous sentences here have had profane language. So I'll stick with 'surely not?'.
posted by robself at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2002

When I clicked in here, I was hoping for the history of the idiom "Heavens to murgatroid" (yes, with a u. Google and slang dictionaries agree). In an attempt to save the thread, here's the answer:

"From the old Snagglepuss cartoon. Nobody knows what a Murgatroid is exactly, but use is simmilar to Heavens to Betsy, or Great Ceasars ghost.
Example: Heavens to Murgatroid, I can't believe you want to watch Dawson's Creek tonight. That's it ... exit, stage left!" (source).

Quickly confirmed with offline slang dictionary. Other references include Hog on Ice and its companions, but I don't have them nearby.
posted by whatzit at 11:10 AM on November 8, 2002 [1 favorite]

Slightly off, but am I the only one who belived Snagglepuss was gay? And, yes I have always wonderd what "murgatroid" is/was.
posted by Jessy at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2002

If I didn't know better, I would describe this post as the work of a psuedo-intellectual seeking to do semantic deconstruction on cultural artifacts.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:17 AM on November 8, 2002

Charles "Hopsie" Pike's bodyguard in The Lady Eve, played by William Demarest. ("It's the same dame, I tell you. The same dame.")
posted by mcwetboy at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2002

Here, we expect you to explain what the post is and why we should read it.

...and then we expect you to come over to our house, read it out loud for us, explain all the hard words, turn off the computer for us and then make us a nice grilled cheese sammich. K?
posted by tristeza at 12:01 PM on November 8, 2002

whatsit, like that slangsite! but where do 'Heavens to Betsy' and 'Great Ceasars ghost' come from?
i have always wondered what a murgatroyd was. well, since newcleus said 'jam on it!'.
all spoken through a pitch shifter, giving the voices a bizarre helium falsetto:
'(Ah, man, this is too funky for me)
(I'm goin' home)
(Hey, Mergatroid, let's go)
(Hey, you fellas seen my sister Mergatroid)
(She was standin' over here just a minute ago)
(Yeah, I think I saw her over there with Randy)
(He's rockin' the mic, you know)'
posted by asok at 12:20 PM on November 8, 2002 [1 favorite]

Asok, The history of Heavens to Betsy. I'm having a bit more trouble with Great Caesar's Ghost. Although there are lots of old uses cited, it seems to be one of those things with a somewhat muddled history...
posted by whatzit at 12:47 PM on November 8, 2002 [1 favorite]

nice one whatzit!
'We have to leave it as one of the great mysteries of lexicography, along with the similar heavens to Murgatroyd. Unless someone reading this knows different?'
kind of makes me feel better.
posted by asok at 12:53 PM on November 8, 2002

I've always wondered myself.
Interesting and different post, Manley. Thanks!
posted by BentPenguin at 12:59 PM on November 8, 2002

And here's the best I can get on Great Caesar's Ghost. Seems to be a way to "take the Lord's name in vain" without actually doing it. For something really interesting, check out the OED entries on Caesar.
Love, your local language nerd.
posted by whatzit at 1:00 PM on November 8, 2002

zounds! that is some interesting trivia.
in the spirit of the thread, i give you 'jesus h christ'.
posted by asok at 1:09 PM on November 8, 2002

Murgatroyd wasn't a Gilbert & Sullivan butler, it was the surname of the "bad baronets" (and the hero) in G&S's operetta Ruddigore. A Google search on the name with this spelling turns up a lot more than the other spellings.
posted by k.43 at 1:17 PM on November 8, 2002

Just to reiterate, Word Origins is not an authoritative site. It's filled with useless, fact-free, erroneous invention, and idle, uninformed, spurious invention. Notice how there are no reliable citations. Same for most of the links offered in this thread. Somebody can say it comes from Gilbert and Sullivan, but until the offer the script in some facsimile form or from a reliable translation, it's just speculation. Slangsite.com is one of the worst: all those supposed definitions and origins, but not a bibliography or citation to be found. World-Wide Words is, however, a reliable source which is very good, but it does fall short in the area of citations, thoroughness and relevance.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:24 PM on November 8, 2002 [1 favorite]

I meant, "reliable transcription."
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:35 PM on November 8, 2002

Good good people, stop writing "mergatroid"! It hurts!

MURGATROYD is good old Irish surname.

I must be old, it never occurred to me to hear it as a Transformer.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:44 PM on November 8, 2002

Agree with Mo on Word Origins, but for what it's worth, one Richard Herz (Unregistered User) (see mrmanley's first link) said "I've seen 'Heavens-to-Betsy' from 1878." No citation, of course. But if true, it's interesting.
posted by languagehat at 1:52 PM on November 8, 2002

In responding about "Heavens to Murgatroid." (No slander to the Irish meant of course *grin*) I've been checking in things like the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang and the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. They're sadly not online, so I've been going with the best I can find on the internet. Agreed, they're poorly cited, but they are online. I'd be happy to know about some better online etymology references - the OED is great, but hasn't had any of these phrases.
posted by whatzit at 1:57 PM on November 8, 2002

Addendum, OED has Heavens to Betsy as early as 1914. There isn't much of an explanation, other than being a "common exclamation among women."
posted by whatzit at 2:04 PM on November 8, 2002

Jumping Jehoshaphat, I just found it myself! Good old Making of America. It's in "Cal Culver and the Devil," by Rose Terry Cooke, from page 582 of the September 1878 issue of Harper's (yes, the same magazine you can pick up at your corner newsstand), and this is the context:
"Why, hain't you got cash enough? I thought she had rents out o' the housen in Har'ford?"

"Heavens-to-Betsy! You don't think I ever see a copper o' her cash, do ye? It's trusted out to a bank in Har'ford quick as lightnin'. It don't never peek at Bassett; and ef it did, I shouldn't have none of it."
For those of you who don't know M of A and like 19th-century Americana, go there at once! There are two collections, at Cornell and the University of Michigan, and you can search the Cornell one (which is larger) here. (Oddly, this is the only hit I got on "heavens to Betsy" -- you'd think if it was in use in 1878 it would show up again before 1926, their end date.)

On preview: whatzit, you'll have fun with this!
posted by languagehat at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2002 [1 favorite]

languagehat, thanks for the additional sources - I have a feeling I'll be reading there till my eyes burn out! So much for getting work done. *sigh* No thanks, though, for introducing a new oath - jumping jehosaphat - to the thread!
posted by whatzit at 2:31 PM on November 8, 2002

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