Sunday, August 10, 2014

Random thoughts on 'Kiss me quick'

Preparing a possible post on flat adverbs (adverbs that take the same form as their adjective equivalents) I started wondering about the origins of the expression 'Kiss me quick'.
In Britain, 'Kiss me quick' is perhaps best known from being printed on hats traditionally worn at seaside resorts such as Blackpool, but the origins seem likely to be American.
Clicking on the clippings will take you to the original at Google Books.

The eighteenth century - a country dance, perhaps?

The first mention I can find at Google Books is from 1795, from 'A letter composed of the names of country dances', published in the New-York Magazine of that year.

The New-York Magazine, 1795

My assumption is that the use of italics indicates that Larry Grogan, Jenny, come tye my bonny cravat and kiss me quick my mother's coming are all the names of country dances.

Or a bawdy ballad?

I can find no other reference to kiss me quick my mother's coming as a dance, but there are a couple to it as a colonial ballad of rather ill repute, being compared with other bawdy tavern songs with titles such as 'Our Polly is a Sad Slut', 'Bonny Lass under a blanket' and 'Sweetest When She's Naked' (History of Music in American Life, Ronald L. Davis, 1980 (quoting colonial historian Max Savelle, 1948)

The nineteenth century - a perfume or bar of soap

This is from a letter to Punch Magazine 1800 - To these insidious inventions will also doubtless be added 'Rondeletia,' 'Fairy Bouquet,' 'Eau de Bully,' 'Wood Violets 'and 'Jockey Club Perfume,' and most of the other scents which are recommended for the boudoir, inclusive of 'Kiss-me-Quick' (GB). And indeed it can be found as the name of a soap on both sides of the Atlantic:

Advertisement in Bradshaw's London, 1857

Advertisement in The Journal of Materia Medica, New York, 1858

Early nineteenth century - various

There are few other examples of 'kiss me quick' from the beginning of the nineteenth century
  • Kiss me quick and resolute. So adieu, signior.
    John Ford, Edinburgh 1811
  • Kiss me quick, my Minnie's coming
    song listed in a collection from 1824
  • “I forgot to thank you,” said she, “for the double cowslips ; look how pretty they are. and smell how sweet the violets are in my bosom, and kiss me quick, for I shall be left behind.” Susan kissed the little breathless girl ...
    Parent's Assistant, by Maria Edgeworth, Boston 1826
  • Kiss me quick! Kiss me Gerald
    from The Last Desmonds; or the Graves of a Household (United States Review 1843)
  • Kiss-me-quick
    the name of a racehorse which came third in the Derby ands Oaks Stakes of 1848

Mid nineteenth century - a kind of bonnet

In the Dictionary of Americanisms, New York, 1848, a kiss-me-quick is described as 'A homemade quilted bonnet which does not extend beyond the face. They are chiefly used to cover the head by ladies when going to parties, or the theatre.' (GB)

Nature and Human Nature, by Thomas Chandler Haliburton, London 1855

There are quite a few references at Google Books to this meaning:
  • but as Susannah did not obey, he took the trouble to peer at her face half hidden by a large "kiss-me-quick".
    Rural Repository, Hudson, NY, 1844
  • Seen from the Bowery, it looks like a barn with a 'kiss-me-quick' hood on
    The Knickerbocker, New York, 1844
  • There is a wide scope for coquettish taste in the arrangement of different wraps. Cloak hoods are sometimes used; again the veritable 'kiss-me-quick,' is seen.
    The Ladies' National Magazine, Philadelphia, 1848
  • The gaudy Kiss-me-quick bonnet had been exchanged for a neat straw cottage one
    Ainsworth's Magazine, London, 1851
  • The southern ladies have got up a bonnet as an offset to the " kiss-me-quick," and the " hold-me-fast," of the north. They call it the "No-you-don't"
    Yankee Notions, or the whittling of of Jonathan's Jack-knife, New York, 1852
  • "Goodness gracious!' shreaked her ladyship, 'What a bird! I shall die if I do not get a couple of feathers from its tail for my new "kiss-me- quick" and "wide-awake"! '
    The Knickerbocker, New York, 1853
But it seems that by 1851, it was already being considered old-fashioned

The New Monthly Magazine, London 1851

Various from the mid-nineteenth century

Appendix to the Arcana of Christianity. The Song of Satan, by Thomas Lake Harris, New York 1858

The Maid and the Magpie (A burlesque), by Henry James Byron, London 1858

White lies, Volume 1, by Charles Reade, London 1857

The Tour in the Hartz (song), by Heinrich Heine, (translated John E Wallis 1856)

Kiss Me Quick and Go - from negro melody to rockabilly

The New Orleans original

Written by S.S.Steele and Frederick Buckley, this was sung by Buckley's New Orleans Serenaders, and published in New York in 1853. Buckley's Serenaders were a very successful group and were called the first group 'to harmonize Negro Melodies'. Their success went well beyond their home country, and they toured Britain in 1846, appearing, for example, at Drury Lane. Their music also extended to what they called 'Ethiopean entertainments' and operatic burlesque.
The song starts:
Oh de other night while I was sparking
My Sweet Tarlina Spray
De more we whispered our love talking
De more we had to say.
And the chorus goes:
Kiss me quick and go, my honey!
Kiss me quick and go,
To cheat surprise and prying eyes,
Why, kiss me quick and go.

A Dickens connection?

Charles Dickens: A Sketch of His Life and Works, by Frederic Beecher Perkins, Hippolyte Taine, New York 1870

The rockabilly adaptation

This seems to have originated in the 1920s with the Georgia Yellow Hammers, but also recorded by The Maddox Bros and Rose in 1953. Although the verses and chorus are different from the Buckleys' song, the subject matter is similar, and it seems that Steele and Buckley were credited as writers, together with Bud Landress, who arranged it.
On the porch while we sat spoonin'
Softly whispering', always coonin'
Thought the old folks and the children were in bed
I heard footsteps softly walkin'
And you bet I then quit talkin'
And she hist a little and squivered up and said
The chorus has definite echos of the original:
Kiss me quick and go away
And no-one will ever know
It's too late to longer stay
Kiss me quick, my honey
Oh, kiss me quick and go

The 1960s - Elvis Presley (and Karen Lane)

Elvis Presley had a Number One in Europe hit in 1962 with 'Kiss Me Quick', written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. It is completely different from the previous songs, and was covered by, amongst others, Brendan Bower with the Royal Showband, Waterford. Here's the first verse:
Kiss me quick, while we still have this feeling
Hold me close and never let me go
'Cause tomorrows can be so uncertain
Love can fly and leave just hurting
Kiss me quick because I love you so
A certain Karen Lake also recorded a song, "Kiss me quick and go" (unrelated to the previous one), written by H. David, L.Clark, and released around 1960.
I hear my daddy knocking on the floor
My mother's looking in and out the door
You'd better kiss me quick, quick, kiss me quick and go
You'd better quick, quick, kiss me quick and go


The Buckleys and their version

The Rockabilly song

The 1960s


Unknown said...

The use of italics in a printed document from those times indicates either that the name of a person is being used, or that direct speech (dialogue) is being shown. Both of these are evident in the passage quoted.
It's plain from these examples you have quoted, and from others including verbs such as 'to buss', that "kiss-me-quick" refers to sexual intercourse, rapidly engaged in and swiftly completed. Compare the slang use of the verb 'baiser' in French, and for a parallel idea the former slang sense of the phrase 'a touch' (i.e. a fuck).

Warsaw Will said...

It's a thought, but I have to respectfully disagree.

Firstly, as to the use of italics, Larry Grogan, Jenny Come Tie My Bonny Cravat and Kiss Me Quick My Mother's Coming are indeed all the names of country dances or ballads, as can easily be checked on Google.

Secondly, I've never heard any suggestion that the 'Kiss me Quick' band on British seaside resort hats is anything but a rather saucy invitation, or has any hidden euphemistic meaning. As for 'baiser', I wouldn't even call this use slang, as it's the main informal verb used for that function, and is listed as such in French dictionaries ('faire l'amour' - Le Petit Robert). I doubt you'll find anything similar for 'kiss' in English dictionaries; not even the Urban Dictionary seems to come up with that one.

Jake for now said...

Too bad WDF did not reply. So truncated.

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