Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Tickled Pink

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 19, 2013

If you’ve ever been tickled pink, you know that at the time you were very pleased or entertained by what you were experiencing or what had happened.  But why are people tickled pink and not tickled blue or purple or even green? It’s because when a person is tickled, they laugh and their complexion takes on a pink to reddish color.

The Telegram and Gazette newspaper of Worcester (MA) published an article on October 15, 2009 entitled “Pink Fundraiser Planned.”  It was the 25th anniversary of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Pink Ribbon Committee at Tri-River Family Health Center were preparing for their annual fundraiser.  The article stated in part:

The Pink Ribbon Committee and the Uxbridge High School Student Council have been painting the town pink in preparation for the Tickled Pink fundraiser at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Whitin Middle School, 120 Granite St.

On January 26, 1997 the Sunday Mail newspaper of Glasgow in Scotland published an article about John McGuinness who, up until that point, had been Scotland’s biggest lottery winner.  The story was entitled, “Lotto John Baby Bonus” and talked about how, on the eve of the multimillionaire’s win a year previous, he found out he and his live-in girlfriend were expecting a wee bundle of joy.  The article quote a family insider as saying:

“John is tickled pink about this. But he doesn’t want to go overboard about it in case the news upsets his daughter. He is a great guy and he’ll make a brilliant dad again.”

On February 8, 1963 the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix carried a story out of Washington that talked about a recent press conference given by then President John F. Kennedy.  There was talk about the Anglo-American Polaris agreement, the North Atlantic Alliance, and other important matters of the day.  The opening paragraph to the story entitled, “No Nuclear Questions So Advisors Tickled Pink” began with this paragraph:

A White House informant described President Kennedy’s advisers [sic] as being “tickled pink” that the president was asked no questions Thursday on the Canada-U.S. nuclear controversy.

On February 20, 1922, United Press Staff Correspondent Lawrence Martin covered the contest for the Republican senatorial nomination in Iowa.  The nominees were hoping to slip into Senator Kenyon’s seat which he was vacating later that week.  The article entitled, “Three Are After Kenyon’s Place” was published in the Berkeley Daily Gazette among other newspapers and stated the following:

Reports that Senator Kenyon was not greatly pleased over the appointment of C.A. Rawson as his success were set at rest today when Kenyon said:  “Please about Rawson? Tickled pink.  Why, Charley was my roommate in college, my best man at my wedding, and the only campaign manager I ever had.”

Twelve years before that, the Daily Illinois State Journal of April 22, 1910 reported on  25-year-old baseball pitcher, Grover Cleveland Lowdermilk [Laudermilk] who broke into the big leagues on July 3, 1909 when he was picked up by the St. Louis cardinals.  The article was entitled, “Lauder Tickled At Change” and the author wrote:

Grover Laudermilk was tickled pink over Kinsella’s move in buying him from St. Louis.

That the term tickled pink should be used so easily in a news story quote in 1910 indicates that it was a term understood by the public.  This implies that it was in use the generation prior to this news article, pinning it to some time in the late 1800s.  According to the Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang, they also believe that this expression dates back to the late 19th century.

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