Laugh? I thought I'd die!
July 8, 2011 5:32 PM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the phrase, "Laugh? I thought I'd die!"? I'm under the impression that it's older than the Beau Brummels song (1964).
posted by kimota to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
Some light googling suggests that it's from an old repeating joke-type-thing, but no results yet on its origin. Posting it here just in case someone else is familiar with it or maybe a slightly different version of it:

Laugh? I thought I'd die!
Die? I thought they'd bury me!
Bury me? I thought they'd throw dirt in my face!
Throw dirt in my face? I thought the worms would tickle me!
Tickle me? I thought I'd laugh!
Laugh? I thought I'd die!
Die? I thought they'd bury me...

posted by phunniemee at 5:56 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Similarly we had an infinite sort of poem when I was a kid:

I laughed so hard I thought I'd die.
I did die.
They planted flowers on my grave.
The roots grew down and tickled me.
I laughed so hard I thought I'd die.

I don't know its origin, but I a quick consult with the elder family dates it to at least the 1930's.
posted by Ookseer at 8:13 PM on July 8, 2011

I don't know about an "origin" emerging necessarily. Sometimes these things are more organic than that. A search of Google Books finds it used as colloquial dialog as early as 1918 (US), in a 1924 play (UK), a 1930 issue of Life, and a 1935 novel (Aus). None of them are signal works that might have inspired or popularized the term.

Intriguingly, I found a close analog in this 1897 light fiction by a Kansas author published in Hawke's Bay (NZ) about the American West, "I was so full of laugh I thought I would die." I think it's probably just a variant of the "die laughing" concept. This particular construction sounds very much like a "pepperpot" nonce expression, but obviously an American origin is suggested by this early citation.
posted by dhartung at 4:55 PM on July 9, 2011

Thanks for all the leads. In the absence of a definitive answer, I've marked dhartung's response as the best since it went so far back.
posted by kimota at 7:51 PM on August 8, 2011

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