I saw the phrase, ‘before you can say Dow-Jones Index’ in the following sentence of JefferyArcher’s novel, “Not a penny more, Not a penny less.”
Scotland Yard’s Fraud Squad Detective Inspector, Clifford Smith tells young Oxford's visiting Mathematics professor, Stephen Bradley who fell a victim to a large scale investment fraud, being coaxed by his Harvard school mate:
“I’m sorry to say that we can hardly ever recover the money, even if we produce enough evidence to nail the villains. They have it all stashed away all over the world before you can say Dow-Jones Index.
I guess “Dow-Jones Index” here is Archer’s version of “before you can say knife (or Jack Robinson),” but I’m curious to know;
1) Can we coin and use as many variation of “before you can say X” in our conversation as Archer did?
2) Is there a standard or best received pattern of “before you can say X”? Is it “before you can say knife”?
3) What is the origin of “before you can say knife”? Why it should be the “knife,” not gun, sword, Tom, Jon, any other words that represent for brevity?