Diary

JOKE ORIGIN: "It’s so cold I saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets"

“It’s so cold I saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets” is a popular joke right now, but where does it come from?

This penniless etymologist of Americanisms has traced it to 1945, where the joke was said of FDR’s Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau, Jr. (father of retiring NY County District Attorney Robert Morganthau).

BRRRRR! FYI, the full etymology of the phrase, from my website:

Entry from January 08, 2010
“It was so cold in Washington that I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets”
“It’s so cold I saw a lawyer/politician with his hands in his own pockets!” is a joke that’s frequently credited to comedians Johnny Carson (1925-2005) and Fred Allen (1894-1956).

The joke appears to have been popularized on the radio show of Bob Burns (1890-1956), who was talking about U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau, Jr. (1891-1967) in 1945: “I hear over the radio (Bob Burns’ program) that it’s been so cold down in Washington, D.C., that Mr. Morgenthau has put his hands in his own pockets!”

In the cold winter of 2009-2010, the line frequently became: “It’s so cold I saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets.”

Wikipedia: Bob Burns (comedian)
Bob Burns (August 2, 1890 – February 2, 1956) was an American radio and film comedian during the 1930s and 1940s. Early in his career he was billed as Robert Burns.
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Radio
On radio Burns became known by nicknames “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.” His radio personality was that of a low-key, self-effacing, rustic bumpkin with a grabbag of amusing stories about “the kinfolks” back home in Van Buren. His character was patterned after Sanford Faulkner (1806-74), composer of the popular fiddle tune, “The Arkansas Traveler.”

After a period on Los Angeles local radio, he reached a national audience in 1935 on the Paul Whiteman and Rudy Vallee radio programs and then became a regular on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall, hosting the show when Crosby was on vacation and telling tall tales about his fictional hillbilly relatives, Uncle Fud and Aunt Doody. He remained with the Kraft Music Hall until 1941 when his popularity with the heartland radio audience led to his own radio series, The Arkansas Traveler (1941-43) and The Bob Burns Show (1943-49).

Wikipedia: Henry Morganthau, Jr.
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (pronounced /ˈmɔrɡənθɔː/; May 11, 1891 – February 6, 1967) was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was also the father of Robert M. Morgenthau, who was the District Attorney of New York County for 35 years, ending in 2009.
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52nd United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
January 1, 1934 – July 22, 1945

5 January 1926, Zenia (OH) Evening Gazette, pg. 1, col. 5:
COLD WAVE KEEPS
CRIMINALS AT BAY
Akron, O., Jan. 6—The recent cold wave curtailed the activities of criminals, according to the records of Sheriff Chris Weaver.

The pickpocket keeps his hands in his own pockets, the holdup man can’t steady his shooting iron in zero weather, safe crackers and lock pickers can’t do good work when they must wear gloves, and second story men will not work when it is cold, Weaver said.

Google Books
News and Views
By General Motors Acceptance Corporation
1945
Pg. 31:
I hear over the radio (Bob Burns’ program) that it’s been so cold down in Washington, D.C., that Mr. Morgenthau has put his hands in his own pockets!

24 January 1953, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “In the WAKE of the NEWS,” pt. 2, pg. A1:
It was announced on television that It was so cold In London a few weeks ago that Churchill was walking around with his hands in his own pockets.

Google News Archive
18 July 1974, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. 20B, col. 1:
PEARLS: Jackie Sule says the weather reminds her of Fred Allen’s line: “It was so cold in Washington that I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.”

Google News Archive
18 October 1984, Peterborough (NH) Transcript, “It gets so cold” (editorial), pg. 4, col. 1:
There’s an old joke about the winter: it got so cold in Washington the politicians actually had their hands in their own pockets.

Unfortunately, it’s only a joke, and the mercury along the Potomac has yet to plunge anywhere near the point where that sort of thing could really happen.
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Henceforth, let it be said: It gets so cold in New Hampshire, we’ve got a politician who actually has his hand in his own pockets.

Google News Archive
10 August 1986, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, pg. G3, col. 2:
Another member claimed that where he lived was so cold he spotted a politician standing on a street corner with bis hands in his own pocket.

Google News Archive
17 October 1987, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, NJ), pg. 2A, col. 3:
Robert Peterson Sr. said it was so cold one day last February that he saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.

Taxing Tennessee
Saturday, January 02, 2010
It’s So Cold I Saw A Democrat With His Hands In His Own Pockets
Posted by Ben Cunningham at 2:33 PM

motorcitytimes.com
It’s So Cold I Saw A Democrat With His Hands In His Own Pocket
2010 January 2
by steve

News – Jacksonville.com
First Coast is so cold, even Canadians are shivering
By Mark Woods
Story updated at 6:30 AM on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
How cold is it?
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To paraphrase an old Johnny Carson line, “It’s so cold that I saw a Florida politician with his hand in his own pocket.”