Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Dismal Jimmy

Robert Hendrickson, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd edition (New York: Facts on File, 2004), s.v. Gloomy Gus (p. 300):
A person who is always gloomy, sad, pessimistic, as in "He's a real Gloomy Gus." The expression is still heard today, although it dates back to 1904, when it was introduced as the name of a character in Frank Opper's comic strip Happy Hooligan. Gloomy Gus's British counterpart is Dismal Jimmy, whose 19th-century origins are elusive.
At first I thought that Dismal Jimmy dated back to 1836, when it appeared as the name of a character (Dismal Jemmy) in Dicken's comic novel Pickwick Papers, chapter 3. Jemmy is a well-known variant of Jimmy.

But a couple of centuries earlier, Nell Gwyn seems to have called the Duke of York, later King James II, Dismal Jimmy.

Also, the author of Happy Hooligan was Frederick Opper, not Frank Opper. The comic strip ran from 1900 to 1932. Gloomy Gus was Happy Hooligan's brother. The pair had another brother, Montmorency. You can see all three here.

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