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"You know what thought did" is a catch-phrase addressed to someone who has just made a stupid mistake and attempted to excuse himself by saying "But I thought..."

Does anyone know the origin of this saying; in particular, does anyone know what thought actually did?

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    Wow, where have you heard this? I'm a native American-English speaker, and I've never heard that phrase before.
    – Chris
    Sep 6 '10 at 22:12
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    Its origin seems to be British English. Sep 6 '10 at 22:51
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    @Mehper C. Palavuzlar: I'm British English and I've never heard it before.
    – Orbling
    Feb 23 '11 at 0:27
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    -1 for accepting an answer which doesn't answer your question. No wonder a user was frustrated when he wanted to submit his contribution: I cannot post an answer because I do not have the necessary rep that is why this question is a duplicate.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 23 '17 at 8:10
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    @ChrisDwyer I'm so glad you haven't. It was addressed scornfully to children in the 1960s and 1970s in Australia. Most of the oafs - the usual drunken "grownup" that was wonted in the "culture" i grew up in - who used the phrase would have had not the tiniest whit of an idea of its origin. They just used it as yet another way to berate a child. Most of the knuckleheads who used it are thankfully worm food now or at least well into their 80s. And so they deserve to be. And i ended up migrating to the other side of the planet. Mar 19 at 22:17
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This was a common one in our house while I was growing up. The next line was "Followed a muck cart, and thought it was a wedding". I've no source, but a quick googling suggests we weren't the only ones.

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  • The variant used by my mother (and apparently fairly common in Scotland and northern England) was "... planted a feather and thought it would grow into a hen". Jan 26 '11 at 15:03
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    This doesn't even attempt to explain the origin of the saying.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 23 '17 at 8:08
  • No, but it does answer the OP's question "in particular, does anyone know what thought actually did?"
    – Simon
    Apr 23 '17 at 10:45
  • In my family, I always heard the answer as "jumped on a mutton cart, and thought it was a wedding", although I may have misheard "muck" as "mutton" as a child. It's strange that our two versions are so similar. I'm interested where you are from - I grew up in Chester, but my late father (who regularly used this phrase) was originally from Ripon. Unfortunately we are still not any closer to finding out where this phrase originated.
    – Kidburla
    Jul 17 '19 at 14:39
  • This from Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn - Page 93 is a typical citation from Google Books: “You know what thought did don'tcha? He shit himself and thought someone else did it,” she said, followed as always with the look of a learned philosopher. I don't know why all the obviously relevant scatological responses to this question have been deleted. Jul 21 at 1:31
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The Dictionary of Catch Phrases states that the original form of "You know what thought did?" is:

What did thought do?

and was exemplified in Jonathan Swift's, 'Polite Conversation', 1738

LADY ANSWERALL: I thought you did just now.
LORD SPARKISH: Pray, Madam, what did thought do?

It's also seen in Lincolnshire Traditional Sayings And Proverbial Expressions.

When a child says "I thought so and so" the adult may respond with, "You know what thought did? He only thought he did." A teenager, however, may reply, "Ah, but when he looked he had!" — a riposte which has the effect of counteracting the adult's attempt to control behaviour.

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