How would I explain the following phrase/expression to an ESL learner?

"Keep those cards and letters rolling in"

I actually don't know where this comes from, or what it exactly means.

Any help is appreciated!


3 Answers 3


It comes from radio shows where they read postcards and letters sent in to the show from listeners. Without new listener material there would be either more work for the producer to do in order to fill the radio slot, or they might not have a show at all to put on if the listener material was questions regarding a general topic such as, say, home repair or relationship advice.

  • 1
    Yes, many US radio (and a few early TV) shows ended with the words "Keep those cards and letters rolling in", or something to that effect. (I clearly remember this from the 50s.) It has become an idiom, though, simply meaning "keep in touch", and may be said, eg, between friends who meet only rarely.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 9, 2015 at 0:57

It's a metaphor, possibly related to the high tide rolling in on the waves. Whoever asked for cards and letters to keep rolling in wanted a constant flood of them.

As Ignacio says, its origin is from radio and TV shows. But that doesn't explain the metaphor.


In the phrase "Keep those cards and letters rolling in", 'rolling in' is a phrasal verb form meaning 'accumulating steadily and abundantly; coming in or arriving in large numbers, continuously or in rapid succession; pouring in' (paraphrased from the OED). The phrasal verb form is documented in the wild as early as 1696:

M. Pix Spanish Wives iii. ii. 37, I cannot but think how bravely I shall maintain thee. Girl; for Mony comes rowling in.

(op. cit.)

In contemporary use, the sense has scarcely changed, if at all:

2004 BBC Good Food Oct. 146/1 For the night the presidential election results start rolling in.

(op. cit.)

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