I have been reading Jeeves and Wooster recently, and the latter character says "don't you know" a hell of a lot. Eg. "He's my manservant, don't you know?" "Tea is very good after a journey, don't you know?"

I am interested in the origin of this phrase. I'm sure it is upper-class British but Googling this gives me no information.

  • 1
    It is a very dated way of speaking, and was probably only ever particular to certain people. It may have been a "marker" used to convey that the speaker had a presumptuous air about him/or her, found more in fiction than in reality. I'm not sure if a character like Lady Bracknell in Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest would have used it
    – WS2
    Aug 1, 2015 at 22:45
  • 1
    It's the 20's upper-class-twit version of contemporary teen "Tea's like youknow really good after a journey". Youknow is pronounced with the stress on you- and a falling tone. Aug 1, 2015 at 22:49
  • Not only is it dated, but wasn't Wodehouse also famous for poking fun at upper class twits such as Bertram Wooster and their mannerisms? They may not have existed in the profusion that fiction/film/TV-series would have us believe, if I may permit myself a statement of moderate sweepingness. Aug 1, 2015 at 23:52
  • It's not really all THAT dated, though I haven't heard it in years. It's simply an idiom that has the same meaning as "you know" in the same place -- a sort of emphasizer of the preceding statement. I'm sure I've known people in the US who commonly used it.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 2, 2015 at 2:27
  • (And one needs to remember that Wodehouse did the vast majority of his writing in the US.)
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 2, 2015 at 2:28

1 Answer 1


'Don't you know?' or the variant 'don't you see?' dates at least from the late 19th Century--and it is irritating. My grandfather would make what he thought was a profound statement and then tack on the condescending 'don't you see?' as if his wisdom had fallen on the uncomprehending ears of an idiot.

  • It would be instructive to tell us your grandfather's linguistic/cultural heritage.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 3, 2015 at 17:03
  • Perhaps it had :-)
    – jamesqf
    Aug 3, 2015 at 18:23
  • I don't know your grandfather of course; but I have to disagree in that I don't think, in its common usage at least, that any condescension is intended.
    – W9WBH
    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.