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What is the origin of the phrase "it's been a slice"? I understand its meaning, but cannot find any listing of its origin, or possibly to what specifically "a slice" is referring.

  • Just speculating here, which may say more about my age than the phrase itself, but my recollection is that this phrase came in to popular use in the late '60's and early '70's. if so, I think it refers to a slice of pizza from resolving the Mary-Jane munchies with friends. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 19 '13 at 5:30
  • So a variant on 'a piece of cake'? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 19 '13 at 9:00
  • I was thinking a deformation of s'nice as in: "itssnice to see you" snice = slice ? And from there the greeting: "it's been a slice." – Mari-Lou A Jul 19 '13 at 9:45
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    If you understand its meaning, perhaps you would be so kind as to explain it to the rest of us. – tchrist Jul 20 '13 at 0:41
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    I think it's short for "It's been a slice of heaven." – user52259 Sep 17 '13 at 19:34
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Meaning

The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs defines it:

It's been a slice!

Sl. It's been good. Good-bye and thank you. It's been a slice! [/] It's been a slice. I hope to see you again some day.

Origin of It's been a slice!

1975

Jonathan Lighter, author of Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, first heard it in 1975:

I heard the ironical "It's been a slice" from a fellow graduate student in 1975. He told me he'd first heard it a year or two earlier, and that it was short for "a slice of life."

1979

The earliest I found is in newspaper Edmonton Journal (17 October 1979) in the headline and article:

Thanks Mr. Speaker, It's Been A Real Slice!

...

Consumer Affairs Minister Julian Koziak said:

"I'm pleased to introduce this bill, as a fresh piece of legislation, being an example of deregulation. By passing this bill, we will be giving a stale legislation the bun," he said.

"Thank you, Mr. Speaker, It's been a slice."


1981

The earliest I found in Google Books is a possible 1981 snippet of Art-com magazine (Contemporary Arts Press, San Francisco Bay Area):

... the page you are reminded that they, along with the city, are reeling ahead projecting new ideas, images, and ways of survival on screens that have never been projected on before. As my friend Miss Judy would say, " This has been a slice!

... the page you are reminded that they, along with the city, are reeling ahead projecting new ideas, images, and ways of survival on screens that have never been projected on before.
As my friend Miss Judy would say, " This has been a slice!"
186 pages book paper
black and white photos
paper bound U.S. $ 10
ISBN 0-937122-06-8

To check the date, the book is the 1981 Young Turks by Stephen Seemayer (Los Angeles: Astro Artz, ISBN: 0-937122-06-8). So it's no earlier than this, and if a recent book review, probably from 1981 also. Here's confirmation the magazine was published under this name between 1980 and 1984.


1984

The earliest Google Books full view is Princeton Alumni Weekly (1 June 1984, Volume 84) in Class Notes for 1984 by student, Glenn N. Huber:

Scott T. Burgess, David K . Marion, and Bill G. Manias. for a most enjoyable ycar—it's been a slice. guys! Finally, I would like to personally wish each and every one of you success in your endeavors. whatever they may be, and leave you with

I'd also like to thank my roommates, Scott T. Burgess, David K . Marion, and Bill G. Manias. for a most enjoyable year—it's been a slice. guys!


1984

It was used in the film Streets of Fire, released 1 June 1984, spoken by McCoy (played by Amy Madigan). Here's subtitles from Subzin:

00:37:36 Poker's a real interesting game when you've got all the best cards.

00:37:43 Next time, right in your nuts, pal.

00:38:03 Guys, it's been a slice.

00:38:08 - Who are you? - I'm a big fan.

00:38:10 Come on. Let's go.

I can't find a clip, so here's the trailer.


1985

Another verifiable use is in the acknowledgements section of John Howard Hutchinson's doctoral thesis Use of Camphor in Natural Product Synthesis (September 1985, University of British Columbia) (pdf):

Finally, I would like to thank my research supervisor, Dr. Thomas Money, for the unending help, support and enthusiasm which he has displayed over the past four years.

Thanks Tom - it's been a slice!


1985

Another is a snippet of Something in Common (1985) by Robert Robin:

"Well, stain," Andy said to Judd, "it's been a slice." "Don't slam"— it was too late— "the door." One down, two to go, Cath must have thought.

Google snippets are often misdated. To verify, here's a contemporary review confirming Cathy is a mother with "two sons--Andy, 14, and Judd, 11". Here we can see it used by the teenager to his younger brother before leaving.

The family live in the village of Glencoe, Illinois and the father commutes to Chicago, some 25 miles away. The author is also from Chicago.


Origin of It's been a real slice!

The 1979 Edmonton Journal used both It's been a slice! and It's been a real slice!. Perhaps the "real slice" version came earlier.

1980?

Armed Forces Journal International, from I think 1980, has this (not shown in the snippet, just search results):

I've had it — life's too short to fight an uphill battle for Commanders and Staffs who won't listen (Remember CORONA ACE?) or don't believe, or maybe don't even care. So thanks for the memories, it's been a real slice of life . . . but ...

So did the phrase come from "a real slice of life"?


1984?

A snippet in the Virginia PTA Bulletin (I think from shortly after March 1984, see bottom right of snippet) shows it had a negative meaning:

Students who have had a terrible day often say, "It's been a real slice;" if they've been treated unfairly, they say they've been "munched on" or "dogged." When someone plays a trick on them, they've been "schroedered."

Students who have had a terrible day often say, "It's been a real slice;" if they've been treated unfairly, they say they've been "munched on" or "dogged." When someone plays a trick on them, they've been "schroedered."


Summary

These don't help explain what the slice actually was, but it helps place it in time and space. My own guess is it's a playfully ambiguous suggestion the experience was a "slice of heaven"; or was it a "slice of hell"? Or perhaps, as one example shows, from "a real slice of life", a full experience.

  • I've not heard of the idiomatic expression "a slice of heaven" before and I didn't find any online definitions. But I did find this, a Dominican idiom which might be of interest to you: Cielito - "(literally little piece of heaven) used to describe a small tip that is customarily given as a reward". Was this expression then loaned to speakers in the US? link – Mari-Lou A Sep 18 '13 at 10:51
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    @Mari-LouA: Thanks. I've not heard any of these phrases before, so it's all down to research! I saw "slice of heaven" and "slice of hell" in Google Books around the same time. But I've found an earlier 1979 from Canada that uses both "It's been a slice" and "It's been a real slice". Did it come from, as one example showed, "a real slice of life", a full experience? – Hugo Sep 18 '13 at 11:22
  • That expression is familiar and makes greater sense to me, I admit. Funny how an expression so young, can be so difficult to trace back to. – Mari-Lou A Sep 18 '13 at 18:39
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1997

Turns up in twice in Disney's animated film Hurcules. Used sarcastically when spoken by the character Meg, but used sincerely when written in the end credits.

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I heard it used in the mid to late 1970s in southwestern-Ontario amongst high-school students. It was used to mean on the surface "it's been a blast", but open to ironical interpretation, meaning the get-together or whatever the event was had actually been pretty dull or lunch-bag let-down, etc. That, though, may just have been the speakers' personal spin they put on it (particularly with the variant "It's been a real slice..."

The earliest trace of it I have found to date is 1963:

"When you work with baseball programs and retarded children", he said, "It's really not a bad hobby. I play a little golf and a little tennis and sometimes I play with my seven children. An acquaintance walked over to Headlee to bid him goodby. [sic] "It's been a slice of heaven", remarked the new president in his parting greeting.

-- New Goals Proposed By Jaycee President. Phoenix, Arizona: The Arizona Republic. 29 June 1963. Page 83, Col. 4. (The person quoted is Dick Leadlee of Bountiful, Utah, speaking in Louisville, Kentucky upon election as President of US Junior Chamber of Commerce.)

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