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Well, [perform some action against me (through which I will be complacent)], and call me a [something humorous which I would then resemble]. [Sincere or feigned exclamation of a recently apparent truth]

I've heard variations of this template phrase through the years, but I've never understood how the parts are supposed to work together.

I believe the structure was often used in the dialog of the television show "Perfect Strangers" by Cousin Balki, but I was very young and couldn't understand it at the time. Regrettably, the show is no longer on the air.

It seems that the first and second sentences should be related somehow. I don't have any examples of a funny complete phrase.

  1. Where did this structure originate?
  2. Does it have a name?
  3. Do you know any good examples?
  4. In which humorous situations would it be appropriate to use such a phrase?
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Paint me green and call me Gumby seems to be a pretty popular example, for if you like green paint. –  Daniel Aug 31 '11 at 20:59
    
Also, here are some of the referenced Cousin Balki quotes, one of which is paint me green and call me Gumby. –  Daniel Aug 31 '11 at 21:04
    
Butter my rump and call me toast or butter my butt and call me a biscuit –  user65357 Feb 11 at 1:46
    
Funny. And (serious question) in what circumstance would you use this? Like, what is the phrase comically communicating? I could see "Butter my rump and call me toast; I'm in so much trouble!". The cuteness of a "biscuit" is canceled out by self-awareness of being one. –  uosɐſ Feb 11 at 12:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Although Eric Partridge wasn't always of the best reliability, it's worth noting that in this "Dictionary of Catch Phrases," he has an entry for a common version of this snowclone (as they've recently begun to be called by linguists), "cut off my legs and call me shorty." He quotes a source who suggests it was popularized by Phil Harris, who these days is mainly remembered as the jazz-loving, slang-throwing, skirt-chasing bandleader from Jack Benny's radio show.

A quick search of periodicals and structure dates that particular form of the expression to at least 1941, when it appeared in an article about teen slang in LIFE magazine.

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Someone seems to have coined a term "Balk-isms" when referring to this. Yes, it seems to have come from Cousin Balki, who is an immigrant to Chicago in the TV show, and he often missaid things. Some of the things he said (missaid) included:

"Cuzzin, are you going to have a nervous break dance?"
"If everyone knew how to herd sheep, there would be no one left to write poetry."
"Patience is a virgin."

And the one that's relevant:

"Paint me green and call me Gumby."

It seems that this type of punchline first came out with "Balki", who also coined several others:

"Well bang my bongos and call me Desi"
"Well feed me garlic and call me stinky."
"Well, rope my feet and call me Dodi!"
"Well rub my chest and call me Vicks"
"Well, throw acid rain on my parade!"
"Well toss my greens and call me Ceasar."

This doesn't necessarily mean that he started off all these types of jokes, but it's pretty certain he popularized it.

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So did you use my comment to the question, or did you find this by yourself? –  Daniel Aug 31 '11 at 21:26
2  
No, actually, I was doing all the reading up and stuff, and then I posted the answer, reloaded the page, and I saw your comments with the same links, and I thought "I'm going to look pretty dodgy here!" –  Thursagen Aug 31 '11 at 21:27
2  
Oh dear. Now what? –  Daniel Aug 31 '11 at 21:32
5  
@drɱ65 δ You should have write an answer, instead of commenting. :-) –  kiamlaluno Sep 1 '11 at 0:12

'Well paint me green' is an expression meaning that you're green with envy over something someone else has or something someone is doing, or going, etc....

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