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I'd like to know the origin and precursor or derivative variants of the phrase "let's blow this popsicle stand". Reliable, conclusive, source-supported, authoritative and consistent information about that phrase would be valuable to me, although information that satisfies all those criteria in one go is not required.

The usual suspects yielded the usual unreliable, inconclusive, conflicting and uninformative dreck. For an example of the dreck, the notion that the popsicle was invented in 1924, a claim repeated at a number of the sources I checked, can easily be disproved.

I checked Wiktionary, Urban Dictionary, The Dictionary of American Slang (2007) as reproduced at dictionary.com, Answers, the Straight Dope discussion forum, an ELL posting, an archived reddit Etymology post, and a Quora posting, as well as background sources (the OED, other dictionaries).

In hardcopy, I checked NTC's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions (1989), by Richard A. Spears; The Pocket Dictionary of American Slang (1960), compiled by Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner; The Random House Thesaurus of Slang (1988), by Esther Lewin and Albert E. Lewin. The last-mentioned work bore some fruit, in that 'pop' was listed as a synonym of 'popsicle', with no further explanation.

Many thanks to anybody who will complete or advance this research for me.

  • Can you give an example of where and how it is used? Your question made me curious! – sumelic Oct 3 '15 at 6:06
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    Then again, it's easy enough to find that information at your links. – sumelic Oct 3 '15 at 6:08
  • @sumelic, yes, the meaning and uses are made clear at the links. Unfortunately, that clarity doesn't extend to the origin, precursor or, to some extent, derivative phrases. Thanks for your interest. – JEL Oct 3 '15 at 6:18
  • "Let's blow this place", meaning "Let's get out of here", is an old expression that I'm sure goes back to at least the beatnik 50s, if not back to the roaring 20s. And it's always been common to replace "place" with some other term -- "dump", "joint", "firetrap", "hot dog stand" etc. Why "popsicle stand" would have become popular is hard to say, possibly because its one of the smallest "establishments" (on par with "hot dog stand") that one can think of. (Ngram shows "blow this popsicle stand" not becoming popular until about 1980.) – Hot Licks Oct 3 '15 at 12:44
  • As @svenyargs indicates, the phrase I've heard most often uses pop stand, not popsicle stand. This is in spite of the fact that where I grew up we did use popsicle, not pop, for the frozen treats. (In that area, pop meant soda pop, aka a soft drink.) And this Ngram bears witness. – Drew Oct 3 '15 at 16:58
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J.E. Lighter, The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994) notes that expression also appears in the closely related forms "blow this pop stand" and "blow this popcorn stand." Lighter includes this entry under blow:

[6]c. trans[itive] to leave (a place or (rarely) a person); (in recent stu[dent] use) in phr[ases] of the type blow this pop stand leave this place.

[Earliest relevant citations;] 1974 Univ[ersity of] Tenn[essee] student: Let's blow this pop stand. 1980 Mork & Mindy (ABC-TV): How about you and me blow this Popsicle stand? 1983 Nat[ional] Lampoon (Feb.) 16: Let's blow this popcorn stand.

The earliest matches in a Google Books search for all three wordings are for "let's blow this pop stand." From Ann Arbor [Michigan] Huron High School, Full Circle (1969) [combined snippets]:

"Good heavens, what if someone were to see this mess!" With the coming of noon all the words slowly began to fuse together in Dunken's mind. "Man oh man, with melodic harmony I should gracefully be banished from the face of the earth to eat my pome. Well shoot me at dawn!"As a fellow junkmate put it, "Tap the rap, plop the top, and blow this pop stand."

Also, from Esquire Fortnightly, volume 92 (1979):

Oh for heaven's sake all right that's it I'm going to blow this pop stand I know I'm just a dumb ignorant media person but if you think for one minute that ... I respect your uh conviction but this has got to be a delusionary belief. The man in the moon. A delusionary belief.

And from Maureen Strange, Sparks (1981):

"I don't have the right credentials — I'm not a creep. How the hell did we get on this subject I hate? Let's blow this pop stand. Let's go celebrate my success as a famous artist."

The earliest Google Books match for the "popcorn" variant is the National Lampoon article (February 1983) that Lighter mentions above.

The earliest Google Books match for the "Popsicle" wording is also from 1983— from David Bischoff, Wargames (1983) [combined snippets):

...You know, the ones who always wear gym clothes and smell so bad.”

“Yeah, well I'm probably not a real rose right now myself.” He guided her to an exit. “C'mon, let's blow this Popsicle stand.”

“My car's the other way, David,” Jennifer said.

The next match is from a letter writer from Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) to columnist William Safire, in William Safire, Take My Word for It (1986):

I was surprised to see no mention of the phrase "Let's blow this pop stand " Surely, this is a shortened version of the longer farewell "Let's blow this popsicle stand."

The common theme here is that soda-pop stands, popcorn stands, and Popsicle stands are chump-change operations. Prior to this round of enterprises, according to Lighter, common phrases suggested blowing "this joint," "this burg," "this place," "town," and "this scene." Lighter's first match for "blow this joint" goes back to 1902 in Billy Burgundy's Letters:

Now, old man, you know me, if there is anything on earth that will make me cough up freely it is a fairy that I am stuck on. I eliminated the $16; then we had another and blew the joint.

On our way up Broadway she stopped in to get a waist from the cleaner's. Knowing that she was shy, I produced the necessary three plunks salvage. Then I put her on a trolley and ducked into an emporium to lubricate my proud tonsils.

Earlier still (and the first of Lighter's citations for blew in meaning 6(c) is this one from William Kountz, Billy Baxter's Letters (1899):

In the general bustle (of a melee) a seedy looking man pinched the Fresh Air Fund, box and all. You know I'm not much for the bat cave, and to avoid such after-complications as patrol wagons and things, I blew the bunch and started up street. I guess the wind must have been against me, as I was tacking.

Conclusions

"Let's blow this pop/popcorn/Popsicle stand" is a relatively recent updating of an old slang expression from the turn of the twentieth century that blew "the bunch" or "the joint" instead of a stand.

Both Google Books (which finds a first match from 1969) and J.E. Lighter (with a match from 1974) identify "Let's blow this pop stand" as the earliest of the pop-related versions of the idiom. The Popsicle version shows up in 1980 (on the Mork & Mindy TV show, according to Lighter) and in 1983 (in David Bischoff's Wargames, according to Google Books).

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We were saying it in my youth in the 70s in a small Ohio town, so it precedes those book and movie references, and it was always "pop stand" because of soda pop. One reference I read online said it would've been used when one showed up at a club or venue and discovered no alcohol was served, only pop.

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    +1 Thanks for the answer. Your personal experience is certainly useful and relevant. I wondered, though, if you could share a link to the "reference [you] read online"? It's a plausible explanation as it stands, but without the reference it's difficult to tell how credible the source is. Also, I'm not sure which are "those book and movie references" preceded by your youth in the 1970s. @svenyargs provides references from 1974 and 1969, for example. – JEL May 5 '16 at 23:32
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There is a lot on this on the web, and I doubt you can have a definite answer, I add two interesting assumptions:

Popsicle (n.) is from :

  • 1923, trademark name registered by Frank Epperson of Oakland, Calif., presumably from (lolly)pop + (ic)icle.. ( Etymonline)

Let's blow this popsicle stand.

  • Even though frozen juice bars had been around since the 1800s, the Popsicle™ wasn’t officially invented until 1905 by a man named Frank Epperson, who later patented it in 1923. Around the same time, patents were issued for portable vending carts.

  • But why blow the popsicle stand?

  • Well, in 1876, Carl von Linden patented the process to liquefy gas – refrigeration technology. The toxic gases of ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulfur dioxide were used as refrigerants. Prior to the invention of Freon in 1929, there had been several fatal accidents due to methyl chloride leaking out of refrigerators.

  • Therefore, it could be concluded that any vendor cart selling cold products like Popsicles™ could have a refrigerator leaking toxic gas. Not wanting to stay around a potentially hazardous refrigerator, one might say, “Let’s get a popsicle and get out of here.” or “Let’s blow this pop stand.” (greyhouseharbor.com)

From The Phrase Finder

  • Usually, it's "popsicle stand." Popsicle (a registered trademark, I hasten to add in case there are any lawyers listening) is a frozen confection on a stick, just water, sugar, artificial colors, etc. Very inexpensive. The kind of store or streetcorner vendor that would sell it would be what we might call a "marginal business."

  • Ok, having said all that, the phrase means "let's leave this no-longer-interesting place, and move on to biger and better things." Equivalent to "let's shake the dust of this town off us...etc." "Blow [out of] town" is an older usage; the popsicle stand reference is meant to denigrate the place being vacated, in a jocular manner. No offense intended.

  • The theory about leaking gas is "blown" by the fact that the expression did not become popular until about 1980, by which time "dry ice" would have been the standard refrigerant for a small stand. – Hot Licks Oct 3 '15 at 12:47

protected by user140086 May 5 '16 at 17:37

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