something for the weekend noun earlier than 1972

Traditionally, a British man on a visit to his barber might be asked if he wants something for the weekend; in other words, if he would like to buy a condom in addition to his haircut. Although this euphemism is usually associated with barbers, it is hard to be sure how often they actually offered such a service, as the conversations they have with their customers are not usually recorded.

Since something for the weekend was initially used conversationally, rather than formally, tracking down recorded evidence has presented a challenge. The OED first appealed to the public for assistance in researching the term in 2006, as part of the Balderdash & Piffle television series, resulting in the discovery of evidence from an unusual source—a Monty Python comedy record:

A herd of zebras visiting the same chemist to ask for something for the weekend.

1972 Wonderful World of Sounds in Monty Python’s Previous Record (gramophone record)

Unlike the traditional use of the phrase, the context here is a pharmacist rather than a barber. (The herd of zebras is also non-traditional.)

It is likely the phrase’s origins can be traced back even further than the Pythons; one viewer of the Balderdash & Piffle series recounted a vivid (but unfortunately unverifiable) memory of seeing the phrase in an advertisement at his barber’s in the early 1950s.  Now that the OED Appeals have gone online, we’d like to try again: can you find a use of something for the weekend in this sense from before 1972?


Posted by OED_Editor on 15 May 2013 13.04
Comments: 5

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  • Elizabeth Prickett-Morgan

    I can’t find my copy of the book, but in David Lodge’s Ginger, You’re Barmy, published in 1962, the narrator buys condoms from a barber. I couldn’t swear to the phrase, but the transaction’s definitely there.

    • Thomas Thurman

      No go, I’m afraid. Your memory serves you correctly, but the phrase itself is absent.

  • Bryn_OED

    Not the specific phrase being looked for, however, this might still be worth considering.

    In an article, attributed to Link Vol.10 [1968/69] `page 31’ – that discusses the full-page advertisements of the ”How to Help Britain and Yourself Campaign”, which exhorted readers to ”Act on just six uncranky suggestions on this page …”, along with other aspects of that campaign – is the passage:

    … but fathers were urged that when the barber asked them whether they wanted anything for the weekend, they should “demand British letters”.

    The full-page advertisement, in The Times 7th February 1968, p.3, does not seem to contain any references to either Barbers or the phrase being sought.

  • David Carrington

    I can’t provide any source, but I was fully aware of the expression while still at school in the early 1960s.

    • Lawrie Hodges

      Lawrie Hodges

      I too remember being asked the question routinely by my barber in the early 1960’s maybe earlier. There was no preliminary conversation leading to this. I was relatively young at the time and didn’t even know what was meant.