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I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.


EDIT: Prompted by @JEL's comment below, I just found in the full OED this definition 1c...

berry slang (U.S.).
A dollar; also (in U.K.), a pound. Usu. in pl. Hence the berries: an excellent person or thing; ‘the cat's whiskers’.

But I note their first two citations are 1918 for the precise meaning a berry = a dollar and 1920 for the more figurative berries = something excellent. So I think my "folk etymology" stands scrutiny - particularly bearing in mind that my 1924 cite above specifically refers to the mistletoe berries.

Also note that OED has the usage bean = [a bit of] money from 1811, leading to this 1915 cite where three thousand beans = three thousand dollars. I think it's reasonable to suppose a degree of berry/bean conflation occurred within "high society" during the pre-war years. So regardless of any possible "first use" citations, the usage OP asks about probably owes at least some of whatever currency it ever had to association with other such semantically-related figurative usages.

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.


EDIT: Prompted by @JEL's comment below, I just found in the full OED this definition 1c...

berry slang (U.S.).
A dollar; also (in U.K.), a pound. Usu. in pl. Hence the berries: an excellent person or thing; ‘the cat's whiskers’.

But I note their first two citations are 1918 for the precise meaning a berry = a dollar and 1920 for the more figurative berries = something excellent. So I think my "folk etymology" stands scrutiny - particularly bearing in mind that my 1924 cite above specifically refers to the mistletoe berries.

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.


EDIT: Prompted by @JEL's comment below, I just found in the full OED this definition 1c...

berry slang (U.S.).
A dollar; also (in U.K.), a pound. Usu. in pl. Hence the berries: an excellent person or thing; ‘the cat's whiskers’.

But I note their first two citations are 1918 for the precise meaning a berry = a dollar and 1920 for the more figurative berries = something excellent. So I think my "folk etymology" stands scrutiny - particularly bearing in mind that my 1924 cite above specifically refers to the mistletoe berries.

Also note that OED has the usage bean = [a bit of] money from 1811, leading to this 1915 cite where three thousand beans = three thousand dollars. I think it's reasonable to suppose a degree of berry/bean conflation occurred within "high society" during the pre-war years. So regardless of any possible "first use" citations, the usage OP asks about probably owes at least some of whatever currency it ever had to association with other such semantically-related figurative usages.

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I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.


EDIT: Prompted by @JEL's comment below, I just found in the full OED this definition 1c...

berry slang (U.S.).
A dollar; also (in U.K.), a pound. Usu. in pl. Hence the berries: an excellent person or thing; ‘the cat's whiskers’.

But I note their first two citations are 1918 for the precise meaning a berry = a dollar and 1920 for the more figurative berries = something excellent. So I think my "folk etymology" stands scrutiny - particularly bearing in mind that my 1924 cite above specifically refers to the mistletoe berries.

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.


EDIT: Prompted by @JEL's comment below, I just found in the full OED this definition 1c...

berry slang (U.S.).
A dollar; also (in U.K.), a pound. Usu. in pl. Hence the berries: an excellent person or thing; ‘the cat's whiskers’.

But I note their first two citations are 1918 for the precise meaning a berry = a dollar and 1920 for the more figurative berries = something excellent. So I think my "folk etymology" stands scrutiny - particularly bearing in mind that my 1924 cite above specifically refers to the mistletoe berries.

2 added 479 characters in body
source | link

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.

I don't know that Dr. Thomas Dalzell and I would have the same definition of "widely used slang", but I more than suspect this use of the berries originated in an 1869 Punch cartoon...

Greengrocer (to our little friend in velvet asking for a piece of Mistletoe for his own private diversion)
"It ain't a very big Piece, but there's lots o' Berries on it; An' it's the Berries as does it!"
[i.e. - it's the berries that will ensure you get your kiss under the mistletoe.]


I see The New York Times reproduced that cartoon in 1911 (search for "berries" on that page, and it's in the OCR text). The (comparatively few) written instances I've been able to find suggest the term was mainly associated with wealthy young people (whose parents probably read NYT). In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1924, the use of "scare quotes" suggests to me that particular doctor expected at least some of his upper-middle-class readership to appreciate the reference (i.e. - it may have been something of "catch-phrase" for a certain class of people).

It seems to me if there's any meaning at all to the search for an "origin" of such a short-lived and geographically/socially constrained usage, it's more likely to have arrived via the Punch -> NYT route than from a more "earthy" allusion to testicles.

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