MS Paint Adventures references this phrase on this page in homestuck: http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=002224

I also distinctly remember hearing the same phrase in one of the three first books of the Avatar: the Last Airbender animated series.

I know from someone I know IRL that the author of Avatar: tLA grew up in the 80s, and a lot of the humor from the show comes from humor of the 80s. If need be, getting the author's name and background should be trivial.

Likely Avatar's author wasn't inspired to use the mentioned quote from MSPaint Adventures

MSPaint Adventures seems at earliest 90s humor.

So an educated guess points me to neither of these sources are an original source

Does anyone have any clues?

  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about English language and usage. – JLG Apr 9 '14 at 23:07
  • I'm sorry. Can I get a suggestion for a better exchange? – 0xFFF1 Apr 9 '14 at 23:07
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    @JLG I would think we typically allow origin of an expression questions … this one has a few tangents thrown in to be certain, but it seems somewhat on-topic. – David M Apr 9 '14 at 23:23
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    OED's first citation for this "literal" sense is 1900 N.Y. Telegr. in Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) 13 Apr. 7/1 This latest product of the ever-inventive Hoosier boy's brain is not punchable (I'm guessing Hoosier was a boxing coach/promoter). But apparently back in 1696 it meant Of coins: legal tender, not clipped. (capable of being given a "validating punch-through" with a hammer). And at some later time, punchable = ready for sex (of a young woman). But this question is a bit like asking Who first said "You do ask some daft questions!"? – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '14 at 0:52
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    @FumbleFingers A Hoosier is someone from the state of Indiana. No one really knows the origin . . . – David M Apr 10 '14 at 1:29

N.B. I'm just handling "punchable face" and taking the rest as decorative.

Based on transcript research (Google site:avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Transcript punchable - proper link to google site search omitted due to lack of rep), your memory regarding tLA may be faulty (or the transcripts are). In any case, a check on mspaintadventures tells us that page was first published on July 2, 2009, and all the tLA episodes came out in 2008 or earlier, so if tLA did use it, you're correct that it didn't come from MPA.

That's all moot, however, since the first (indexed) reference I could locate to the phrase itself being published is well before either, in a July 29, 2002 Guardian article by Alexis Petridis: "Ben Elton's punchable face singing along to All You Need is Love", and FumbleFingers found one even earlier (in the comments), in a 1995 book, Edsel: a Novel of Detroit.

Given the Guardian article was a music review, it seemed plausible the phrase is a corruption of "sockable face", in the song "Sockable Face Club", from the album Rapid City Muscle Car released by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies in 1994, but that's speculative, and the novel reference makes it seem slightly less likely.

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