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?[youtube=http://youtu.be/iXRTvpk6LVw&start=227]
Posted by OED_Editor on 15 May 2013 13.04