12 April, 2013

"Darby and Joan"

I used this phrase in American company the other day and came up with a blank. Is it only a U.K. origin thing? This webpage seems to indicate so.

For any who don't know this phrase, it means a devoted old couple leading a contented, if a somewhat boring life.

Taken 10 years ago. A long way from being
"Darby and Joan" yet.
Generally I've heard it used in a slightly negative, yet perhaps nostalgic fashion about oneself. "Ah, look at us, Darby and Joan." According to Wikipedia, Ruth Rendell wrote this in The Best Man to Die (1981), "My father called my mother darling once or twice and there was a kind of Darby and Joan air about them." I found a lovely blog post by an Australian here, using the phrase in the way I'd use it (it also includes the words of a song called "Darby and Joan".

As I looked it up online, I was surprised at how many literary and musical references there are. Here are some other uses of the phrase:

So, tell us, where has this phrase ended up? Have some Americans heard of it?


7 comments:

Hippomanic Jen said...

My parents used it when all us kids had left home. They were then just Darby and Joan. I had always presumed an old TV series or book was behind it.

Jodi Davis said...

Not in New Jersey, that I have heard.

Evangeline said...

First I'd ever heard of it!

-J said...

A first for me, too. Thanks for teaching it to me!

Jeanne said...

Thanks for the nice blog link! I'm off to check out your posts now!

Jeanne said...

PS I'm a great Japanophile as well. I'll be back!

Caroline said...

My Mum (from NSW) used this expression in the context of people's children leaving home too, and the emphasis seemed to be on contentment in each other, rather than their lives being boring or financially impoverished (as one of the links suggested). I never saw it as being negative, but my Dad died before all of us had left home, so I never heard my Mum use it about herself, but only others, which would have probably taken away any slightly negative connotations.