Vaudeville Lives On in Our Language

John Kenrick, an authority on vaudeville, reminds us that many phrases in our language originated on vaudeville stages. Here are six of them.

  • Eddie Foy and the Eight Little FoysPerformers anxious to protect expensive costumes had bright red carpets laid between their dressing rooms and the stage. (This color made it easy to see if the carpeting was clean.) Only top headliners could insist on the red carpet treatment.
  • Vaudeville slang referred to unsophisticated comedy as being “stuck in the corn,” soon shortened to 
  • Whenever a performer got a sensational response, the next act had to work twice as hard to capture audience attention. So it was a great compliment when you were called a tough act to follow.
  • Vaudeville performers were the first to refer to winning over an audience as knocking them dead,laying them in the aisles or slaying them – still popular terms for successful performers in any field.

Explore John Kenrick’s website, Musicals 101, for interesting background stories of the American theatre.

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