View OED entry

easy-peasy adjective earlier than 1976

Hugo provided verifiable evidence from 1966.

This colloquialism for ‘extremely easy’ was added to the dictionary in 2002. OED editors posted an appeal for earlier evidence in our print newsletter back then, and we haven’t given up. We’re still trying to find evidence earlier than our current first quotation:

1976 Evening Standard 20 July 19 (caption) I’m short of money this week.  How do I get to work?  Easy peasy. I run to the station, leap the barrier, clobber the train driver, dress up in his clothes [etc.].

Earlier evidence may be available in print, or in new digital archives which were not available when we initially researched the entry.

Posted by OED_Editor on 28 November 2012 10.12
Comments: 9

Tags: ,

  • hugo_oed

    I found some earlier quotations. One is used for children, seems to mean “very easy” and is from 1966. I found a possible 1967 that is a quote of schoolchildren being giving too easy work by their teacher. And I found a possible 1923 as an example of nonsense illness used in a Christmas Mummers play, and another such example from 1970.

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    This is from a 1966 snippet, and I’ve confirmed the date as January 22, 1966. It’s a “translation” of a children’s book, and seems to be the “very easy” meaning.

    The Bookseller - Issues 3132-3137 – Page 185
    Publishers’ Association, Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland – 1966

    Lona Caym a man cald Mr Crrm Wht Whs a WISAD AND He truyd to do sum Magik But He Cunot Sepl The thing So He poot a nowt up and wen Mr WICH Red IT He Said ESI pis Sow He DUN THE Sep.

    (Along came a man called Mr. Crrm what was a wizard and he tried to do some magic but he could not spell the thing so he put a nought up and when Mr. Witch read it he said Easy-peasy, so he done the spell.)

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    Here’s another snippet, dated 1967, meaning very easy and used by children.
    Discipline in schools: a symposium - Page 58
    Lawrence Stenhouse – 1967

    Children will say either, “He gives you things you can’t understand, and he won’t explain properly,” or “He gives you easy-peasy stuff. He’s daft”* When pupils feel that the teacher is working to the wrong standards, they will often deduce that he is inexperienced and incompetent, and they will then redouble their efforts to find weakness in his authority and control. 

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    From an article about “Christmas Mummers in England” by J. Kinchin Smith, Google claims it’s 1923 and looks likely, but needs confirming. “Easy-peasy” is mentioned by a doctor in a Mummers play as an example of one of the many (possibly nonsense) things he can cure.
    Theatre arts - Volume 7 – Page 60
    Sheldon Cheney, Society of Arts and Crafts (Detroit, Mich.), Edith Juliet Rich Isaacs – 1923

    One or two examples may be quoted; he insisted on the words:
             Across the water ourifie,
             I’ll meet you there if I’m alive.
     ’Ourifie’ puzzled long, till from the far north Whitehaven restored ‘at the hour of five.’ Similarly the hopeless Berkshire
             Neither on to bona ben,
             I didn’t take you to be my friend.received elucidation of
             Sir, neither to you I bend;

     and the Berkshire Doctor’s cure of “the easy-peasy, palsy and the gout,” which might have been intended nonsense but for the exactness of the other diseases mentioned, is amended by the general agreement of the other versions to “the itch, the stitch, &c. [palsy and the gout]”

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    Again in a 1970 snippet comes another easy-peasy from the doctor in a Mummers play:The English Mummers and Their Plays: Traces of Ancient Mystery by Alan Brody
    University of Pennsylvania Press

    The Pronouncing of Patent Names and Letters becomes gibberish like “hipigo, limpigo and no go at all,” and such gibberish enumeration of the doctor’s drugs as:

         Easy peasy peas midget oil and humble bees gravy
         the juice of the beetle, the sap of the pan.
        Three turkey eggs nine miles long
        Put it all together in a midget’s bladder
        Stir it up with a gray cat’s feather.

  • hb1616

    To make things slightly more difficult there is also easy-weasy, which can be traced back to 1911 (Aberdeen Daily News, South Dakota  May 10).

  • Bryn_OED

    Not as early as other contributions, but this seems to predate the original OED entry.
    The Sunday Times for 25th March 1973 [p33] has an article “Me and my Vas.”, by Hunter Davis, with the passage: “She calmed me down, took out my stitches, easy peasy, …..”

  • Karma_Singh

    This was in common usage amongst we children in junior school (Sheffield, Yorkshire) ca. 1956 – 1960 then we somehow lost interest in it.
    I have vague memories of a rhyme which began “easy peasy pudding and …..” .
    Whether this has something to do with pease pudding (a dish which I have yet to see, let alone sample) I cannot say but it is suggestive. If so, then we may be looking at a term from the 18th century which went out of favour for a while and then enjoyed a modest comeback maybe in the 1940′s.

    Blessed be

    Karma Singh

  • stuartspencerwaller

    Who remembers ‘Easy peasy, Lemon squeazy’? This was a slogan from, I believe, an advertiser on  the television channel ITV in the seventies for… was it… lemon fresh washing up liquid?

    • Elizabeth Blanning

      It was for Lemon SqEzy, I believe, but although I can locate pictures of the bottles, I can’t find one with this slogan, or an original advertisement. I think it was revived with a recent relaunch of the brand. Perhaps the company might have some original advertising material?
      http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/hhcl-wins-3m-sqezy-relaunch/2034634.article

  • stuartspencerwaller

    Karma singh, Indeed, ‘Easy-peasy, pudding and pie..’ and then a rhyme which I sadly cannot bring to memory.

  • Bryn_OED

    Noting the need for the same apprehension as with using GoogleBooks, the http://www.subzin.com subtitle website shows an oral use of “Easy Peasy”, within the [1940] film “The Long Voyage Home”, at 01:01:20
    Watching the film, the first half of the exchange [as a box is lifted from a bunk] “Easy [P]easy … Take it easy Drisc” is whispered and indistinct; however, when next amongst film scripts and/or copies of 1940 films, it should be worth a look, to confirm.

  • Mary_SSU

    From the 4 July 2002 article, “HHCL Wins L3M Sqezy Relaunch” by Sonoo Singh: Sqezy “first appeared on the shelves in 1964 as ‘easy peasy lemon sqezy’ washing up liquid (www.marketingweek.co.uk/hhcl-wins-3m-sqezy-relaunch/2034634.article).  Perhaps the advertising agency that coined the phrase may have pertinent information.