"Nothing good will come of this" ???
January 23, 2010 3:54 PM   Subscribe

"Nothing good will come of this" is popping up a lot lately, but my Google+fu has failed to yield the origin of this catchphrase. Got clues?
posted by dorgla to Writing & Language (19 answers total)
I've seen this phrase or variations of it in book centuries old, in both English and in other languages - variations exist in everything from the Bible to Le Morte Darthur. In essence, there isn't really any "origin" for it you'll ever detect. It's just a common phrase in a variety of languages, and probably has been since humans starting auguring the future.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:10 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Admittedly, it is far from a new sentiment or a new string of words, but there's just something about the recent usage and frequency with which it is cropping up, with hints
of irony or gallows humor, which leads me to believe that it might be in the process of
turning into some sort of larval catchphrase. I wondered if it might have been used that way in a movie recently, or TV show, or a similar pop-cultural reference.
posted by dorgla at 4:14 PM on January 23, 2010

I'm pretty sure the phrase is "nothing good can come of this." That might help in your Google-ing.
posted by moojoose at 4:35 PM on January 23, 2010

In my mind, the phrase (no[thing] good can|will come of it|this) should always be prefixed with 'Mark my words...'

Google books finds an 1842 mention of "mark my words, no good will come of it" here.
posted by misteraitch at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Has a taste of the nineteenth century school marm, doesn't it?

I think you're right, I think it is making a mild resurgence. My guess is that it's a mild tweak at the current crop of professionally nervous oh-dears who make a living by presaging doom. Of which there is a lot going on these days. Pretty mild tease, fits in the writers' toolbox of useful cliches.

Who started it? Who can say? Hell, in my lifetime, some nameless individual came up with the idea that Baby Huey pants were cool. Find that first adopter whom all others follow and you, my friend, will be able to get rich.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:25 PM on January 23, 2010

I was about to note that this was one of Master Mate's catchphrases in the Captain Pugwash TV series, but I think misteraitch's 1842 mention is probably even older.
posted by flabdablet at 6:52 PM on January 23, 2010

Confirmation bias.
posted by fixedgear at 10:02 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a very, very old phrase, and I theorize that it's only its repetition, in an Old Testament sort of way; at any rate I can't pin down a source. Might be Shakespeare somewhere; seems likely, considering his prodigious influence. At any rate, a focused Google Books search reveals references stretching back deep into the seventeenth century, and given that (though I wonder) I have a feeling that's as deep as Google Books goes with proper dates or with their scanned material, it's probably far older.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 PM on January 23, 2010

(To be precise, the earliest Google Books reference is 1644.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 PM on January 23, 2010

sorry, I meant "it's only its repetition... that's made it so popular.")
posted by koeselitz at 10:59 PM on January 23, 2010

.... and... that last reference is absolutely false. Sorry. Google Books, you are crap at dating things. Argh.

Here's an ACTUAL reference from 1688.
posted by koeselitz at 11:01 PM on January 23, 2010

I think I've got an idea of where this came from. This is just a theory, but: before that 1688 reference, all of the references that I can find that are even remotely similar are to a verse of the Bible, Romans 3:7-8, which (as the 1634 edition of William Tyndale's translation had it, at least) reads:

“Yf the veritie of God appere moare excellent thorow my lye unto his prayse why am I hence forth judged as a synner? and saye not rather (as men evyll speake of us and as some affirme that we saye) let us do evyll that good maye come therof. Whose damnacion is juste.”

(Wikipedia says the linked text is from the 1534, not the 1525 or 1526, and since the link can't seem to decide which of two dates it is I'm going to assume it's the latest one.) This seems, from around this time, to be oft quoted as, for example, "shall we do evil, that good may come of it?" My suspicion is that "no good may/will/can come of it" tended to be used as a shorthand for this verse, or at least for the sentiment. And hundreds of years later (the mid nineteenth century, judging from misteraitch's reference) "mark my words, no good will come of it" had a sort of archaic sound to it, being in nice pentametric iambs and all.

That's what I think, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 11:47 PM on January 23, 2010

So, yeah: around 1534, I'd say... maybe add a few years for the variance.
posted by koeselitz at 11:49 PM on January 23, 2010

Personally, I prefer, "This can only end in tears."
posted by digitaldraco at 12:13 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I like "it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye".
posted by flabdablet at 2:25 AM on January 24, 2010

Longshot here, but you might consider re-watching the last few weeks' episodes of "The Office." Seems like every Friday, my Facebook feed is full of people reiterating one quote from the night before.
posted by jbickers at 6:35 AM on January 24, 2010

I'm going to guess confirmation bias on noting a resurgence. In late 90's high school we said this in the same sardonic kind of way. I have no idea why. Seems like a standars way of phrasing a pretty universal sentiment.
posted by cmoj at 11:10 AM on January 24, 2010

chances are this has something to do with LOLcats or 4chan.
posted by kenliu at 12:05 PM on January 24, 2010

I cannot recall where, exactly, but I did read the phrase in a classical Latin text many years ago as an undergraduate. As a guess, I'd have to say Cicero, but I'm not at all certain. I recall the phrase because in Latin 'good' [bonum, a substantive noun] took the genitive case, so a literal translation would be 'nothing of good…'.
posted by alaaarm at 9:13 PM on January 24, 2010

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