Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Footloose And Fancy Free

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 21, 2011

When you hear of someone who is footloose and fancy free, it brings to mind someone who can do what he or she wants either because he or she has very few responsibilities requiring his or her attention.  Now in the past, footloose and fancy free have been used separately.  So when did the two become inseparable word buddies?

The Sunday Mercury of Birmingham, England published a news article on April 22, 2001 entitled, “A Dream Delivery For Our Del Boy.”  In the article, it stated:

Asked about why he waited so long for a child, the actor said: “I didn’t actually wait, it was thrust upon me I think.  My life has been in reverse. It wasn’t fame and it wasn’t money, but I always wanted to succeed. Because of that, I needed to be footloose and fancy-free. I needed to go where the work was. As soon as things started to get heavy with a relationship, I would be off, gone. I knew I couldn’t be responsible for a family and the silly work I was doing.”

On March 7, 1959 the Lewiston Daily Sun newspaper ran a story about actress Debbie Reynolds — Carrie Fisher’s mom — and her upcoming endeavours after her divorce from actor Eddie Fisher.  The first paragraph of the story out of New York read:

Debbie Reynolds, footloose and fancy free since her divorce from Eddie Fisher flew off to Spain Friday to make a movie.  She had arrived from Los Angeles earlier.  Asked if there was any  new romance in her life, she replied: “I should say not.”

On May 16, 1936 the Montreal Gazette ran an advertisement in their newspaper, paid for by the American Express Travel Service entitled, “How To Be Footloose And Fancy Free When Traveling.”  It spoke of escorted trips to South America and Alaska.  Around The World 104-day tours with shore excursions could be booked for just a little more than $1,000 inclusive and urged readers to send away for their booklet “It’s Easy To Plan Your Own Tour Of Europe.”

The Providence News ran an interesting news piece on January 26, 1922 entitled, “Buckled Goloshes Mean Girl’s Engaged.”  The story came out of Chicago and stated:

Engagement rings being taboo at Northwestern University, those co-eds who have plighted their troth will now make their status known through the manner in which they wear their goloshes.  Goloshes open or buckled will now tell the story hitherto conveyed by the diamond ring. 

It all came about by one young fiance pleading with his girl to please cover her ankles from public view.  Open goloshes now signify the wearer is footloose and fancy free, but woe betide the young man who attempts to warm up to a girl who wears hers buckled, for it is the unwritten law of the campus at Northwestern that men students never “pirate” another fellow’s sweetheart.

The earliest published version of the expression footloose and fancy free that Idiomation was able to find comes from the Los Angeles Times newspaper edition of August 20, 1907 in an article entitled, “Olden Hunter Of Moonshine.”  The following was written about the former owner of the Planters Hotel in Anaheim, California:

Accompanied by his family, he intends to remain in this vicinity several weeks. He says he is footloose and fancy free and as he sold the Planters Hotel a week or so ago, he feels no need to return immediately to St. Louis.

Because the expression footloose and fancy free was used with ease in the news article of 1907, it can be believed it was a common expression understood by the majority of newspaper subscribers.  To this end, the expression can easily be attributed to the early 1900s.

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One Response to “Footloose And Fancy Free”

  1. Missouri newspaper…

    […]Footloose And Fancy Free « Historically Speaking[…]…

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