You ain't got to go home but you got to get [the expletive] out of here.

Variations of the above phrase are very popular and a common cultural reference — seen in many movies, TV shows and music lyrics.

What is the origin of that phrase? Who was the first to use it and under what circumstances?

  • 14
    The more neutral version (I'm not sure why you would choose one that involves slang or an expletive) is you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 6:08
  • 1
    @JasonBassford: Most times I've heard that phrase it was the slang version (containing the word "ain't") and roughly half the time containing an expletive. I don't recall ever hearing the plain vanilla version. The reason I included that in the question is 1. for accuracy and 2. because it might contain a clue regarding the origin. Can you point me to an example of the plain vanilla version being used?
    – user0939
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 6:19
  • 4
    You can start with this, which talks about the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic. (Which uses the lyric.) However, that's not the only song to use the lyric—and it originated earlier than that. (But I don't have a specific reference for its actual origin.) Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 6:34

2 Answers 2


Though made popular by the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic in the ’90s the expression appears to have originated a few decades earlier as it was probably just what bartenders used to say to clients who wanted to stay after closing time as the following source suggests:

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” is what a bar manager might say to his last remaining customers at closing time. “In the old days, the cry in the joints, when they were ready to close, was ‘you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here’” was cited in print in 1944. “You don’t have to go home (but you can’t stay here)” was the title of at least two songs in the 1990s.

5 March 1944, Boston (MA) Herald, “Stranded Tourists Discover Miami’s Palms Have Fingers,” pg. 19, col. 3:

  • In the old days, the cry in the joints, when they were ready to close, was “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

1 January 1948, Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “A Correspondent’s Notebook” by Hal Boyle, pg. 4-A, col. 4 The sign said:

  • “You don’t have to go home—but you can’t stay here. Happy New Year!”

1 May 1960, Boston (MA) Globe, Padlocking of Glass Hat Leaves After-Hour Drinkers No Place to Go But Home” by Arthur Siegel, pg. 72:

  • A voice would call out, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.


  • 2
    The line was uttered at the end of the "Bob's Country Bunker" gig scene in Blues Brothers in 1980. It was already quite popular before Semsonic came around.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 13:34
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    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 21:46

The phrase you seek (including the expletive) was spoken by Richard Pryor in one of his old stand-up albums (vinyl) in the '70s. I'll have to look up the exact routine and album but that's where I heard it over 40 years ago. Wish I could be more exact in answer, but that's where it originates. Cheers.

  • 1
    I'm not suggesting Richard Pryor didn't say it at that time, and perhaps he was the first to use the specific phrasing quoted in the question, but the concept clearly didn't originate with him given the variations from decades before that are quoted in the other answer.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 13:30
  • 1
    The saying has already been dated to at east as early as 1944.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 16:27

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