Etymology and hitting the fan

My dad did not use “those” words, as a rule, and so it was with some embarrassment that he told the joke.

I had purchased a 45 rpm record at a 10% cut-out sale called “When It Hit the Fan” (because I liked the label, I think – I was a kid) and I didn’t understand the context. So he told me the joke.

A man takes a room on the second floor of a rowdy saloon, and during the night he had an urge for going but didn’t want to walk downstairs through the crowded bar to the outhouse. He saw a hole in the floor and thought, “Ah! I’ll use this handy portal.”

Not long afterward he noticed it had become very quiet downstairs. Curious, he went down and the place had cleared out. “What happened?” he said, and the bartender poked his head up from behind the bar with a harried look on his face.

“Where were you,” he asked, “when the $#!+ hit the fan?”

I realized this morning my dad had passed along a valuable piece of history, the origin of a common vulgar phrase, and so I pass it forward to you to preserve this important knowledge.

Published by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, Dejah and Summer, and Blackberry, an insistent cat. Author of Echoes of Freedom Past, Full, Refuse to be Afraid, Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes, How to Play a Blue Guitar, Myke Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes, A Bridge at Crossroads, The Imaginary Bomb, A Scream of Consciousness, and The Imaginary Revolution.

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