A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 25, 2012
“Call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner”

"Call me anything you like, but don’t call me too late for/to dinner” is an old joke that has been cited in print since at least 1833. A farce by Richard Jones called Too Late for Dinner played London in 1820, but it’s not known if this play has anything to do with the joke.

(This entry was prepared with research assistance of Doug Wilson of the American Dialect Society listserv.)


OCLC WorldCat record
Too late for dinner, a farce
Author: Richard Jones
Publisher: London, W. Sams, 1820.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 2d ed., corr

16 July 1833, Huron Reflector [Norwalk OH], pg. 7(?), col. 2:
“... call me what you please, but dont [sic] call me too late to dinner.”

20 July 1833, Easton (MD) Gazette, “Mercantile Drumming,” pg. 1. col. 4:
“Oh, as to that,” said the merchant, a little mortified, “it’s of very little consequence what a man is called so that.”

“He isn’t called too late to dinner,” interrupted the Yankee—“that’s just what I tell my wife.”

Google Books
Japhet in Search of a Father
By Frederick Marryat
Paris: A. and W. Galignani and Co.
1836
Pg. 9:
“They call me a foundling, but I don’t care what they call me, so long as they don’t call me too late for dinner.”

Google Books
January 1837, Fraser’s Magazine, pg. 87, col. 2:
“Call me what you like,” roared another, “except only don’t call me too late for dinner,” and at this effort of wit, his colleagues chuckled and rubbed their hands, ...

Google Books
Cousin Geoffrey, the Old Bachelor:
A Novel, to which is added Claude Stocq

Edited by Theodore Edward Hook
Paris: Baudry’ European Library
1840
Pg. 241:
“Ah well, call me anything you like, Gerry, anything but too late for dinner!” and he offered his short fin-like arm to his tall and scornful wife.

Google Books
The Pottleton Legacy:
A Story of Town and Country Life

By Albert Smith
London: David Bogue
1849
Pg. 144:
“Call me what you like, so long as you don’t call ‘me too late for dinner — eh?”

Google Books
21 July 1873, Chatterbox, pg. 266, col. 2:
“Call me anything von like if you don’t call me too late for dinner.” That was a joke of those days, and everybody’s grandfather or great-grandfather used to make it.

Google Books
Lend a Hand:
A Journal of Organized Philanthropy

Volume 2
Edited by Edward Everett Hale
Boston, MA: Lend A Hand Publishing Co.
1887
Pg. 27:
“Call me w’at ye like, so ye don’t call me too late for dinner.”

Google Books
The Salt-cellars:
Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together with Homely Notes Thereon

Volume 1—A to L.
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon
London: Passmore and Alabaster
1889
Pg. 95:
Call me what you like, but don’t call me too late for dinner.

Google Books
The World for Aale:
A Novel

By Gilbert Parker
New York, NY: A. L. Burt Company
1916
Pg. 77:
“I don’t mind what they call me, so long as they don’t call me too late for dinner.”

9 May 1973, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “Why Madison Needs New Buses “ by Nicholas Von Hoffman,pg. 6-A, col. 4:
“As Fat Walker, the late great third-base coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates, used to say, ‘Call me anything you want, but don’t call me late for dinner.’”

Google Books
A Texas-Mexican Cancionero:
Folksongs of the Lower Border

By Américo Paredes
Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press
1976
Pg. 160:
This new approach -advanced as a sane and pragmatic one— was epitomized in the popular dicho, “I don’t care what you call me; just don’t call me late for dinner,” which became current among Mexican-Americans of the 1950s.

Google News Archive
20 January 1985, The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), “The Wings Of Dan: Colonel Rank Causes Ruffled Feathers In Major Flap” by Lonnie Brown, ‎pg. 9A, col. 3:
(Well, as one of the Guzzler Club members said, “I’d rather be a $28,000 captain than a $26,000 major any day,” and added, “Call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner.")

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Tuesday, December 25, 2012 • Permalink