You kids get off my lawn!

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"You kids get off my lawn!" is an American idiom of the late 20th century and early 21st century.

The phrase presents the supposed reaction of a stereotypical elderly middle-class homeowner confronting boisterous children entering or crossing his property. More generally the idiom pokes fun at older conservative bourgeoisie as a class.

Slight variations such as "Hey, get off my lawn!" and "You kids get out of my yard!" are sometimes employed.

Background[edit]

Suburban house with lawn

Until the late 19th century, private lawns in the modern sense were mainly associated with the estates of the wealthy. The introduction of affordable mechanical manual lawnmowers made it possible for small lawns to be maintained by individuals.[1]

During the post–World War II economic expansion, many persons from rural and urban backgrounds moved to single-family detached homes with lawns in the suburbs or in horizontally developed cities. Pride in new-found affluence was expressed in attention to these lawns, and the characteristic American high valuation of private property rights[2][3][4][5] was expressed in an especially proprietary attitude toward this real property.

In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, some of these first-generation homeowners were approaching or reaching retirement age, while the suburban-raised baby boomers were accustomed to the affluence symbolized by lawns as unremarkable.[6][7][8]

This led to instances of the archetypical encounter envisioned by the idiom, of an older homeowner's reprimand of careless or disrespectful minors heedlessly shortcutting across his highly valued lawn. Individual instances of these mundane encounters seldom enter the historical record, although some incidents have escalated to notable levels.[9]

Popularization[edit]

The idiom was popularized by American baby-boomer television host David Letterman as one of his comedic taglines, beginning in the 1980s.[citation needed] Since then, it has gained general currency.

Stephanie Miller occasionally ascribes the phrase "Hey! You kids get off my lawn!" to Senator John McCain in her satirical portraits of McCain. (McCain, in a 2008 appearance on David Letterman's Late Show gamely uttered the idiom himself in a comedy turn.) [10] The Capitol Steps album I'm So Indicted included "Hey, You, Get Off Of My Lawn" (a parody of "Get Off Of My Cloud"), and comic social commentator Jon Stewart described United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "a cantankerous old man who takes a hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn approach to foreign policy".[11]

Rock musician John Doe used the idiom to describe the kind of person that he and other aging hipsters wished to avoid becoming,[12] and the Fensler Films short film Skier featured Snow Job berating the protagonists with an obscene version ("Hey, what the fuck are you kids doing on my fucking lawn?"). Bryan Cox's Public Radio Exchange radio program is titled Hey, Get Off My Lawn[13] In 2011, The Wall Street Journal summarized John Paulson's response to Occupy Wall Street with the title "Billionaire Tells Occupy Wall Street to Get Off His Lawn".[14]

In an early scene of Gran Torino, a rifle-toting Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) growls "Get off my lawn" several times to neighborhood punks,[15] leading film critic Kenneth Turan to note: "Even at 78, Eastwood can make 'Get off my lawn' sound as menacing as 'Make my day'".[16]

The office softball team for senior citizen advocacy organization AARP in Washington, DC's Congressional Softball League is named, "Get Off Our Lawn". [17]

In Britain[edit]

In Britain, a similar phrase has a different source and meaning. In 1993, John Major in a speech warned "Get your tractors off our lawn" (in reference to French trade demands),[18] and in 1996, politician Kenneth Clarke allegedly told Brian Mawhinney "Tell your kids to get their scooters off my lawn" (Clarke was speaking of Eurosceptics in his own party).[19][20]

But these referred to a well-known 1969 incident in which Prime Minister Harold Wilson told trade-union leader Hugh Scanlon to "Get your tanks off my lawn".[21] (Wilson was speaking metaphorically and referencing the previous year's Soviet Union crushing of the Prague Spring.) The phrase "to park tanks on the lawn" still means, in Britain, bringing to bear unwarranted pressure; for instance, a 2009 Guardian article was titled "Why Google is parking its tanks on Microsoft's lawn".[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Old Lawnmower Club. "Mower History". The Old Lawnmower Club. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  2. ^ Hans Joachim Morgenthau, (Kenneth W. Thompson, Robert John Myers, Editors), Truth and tragedy: a tribute to Hans J. Morgenthau, Transaction Publishers, p. 165, 1984 ISBN 0-87855-866-7.
  3. ^ Marcus Cunliffe, The right to property: a theme in American history, Sir George Watson lecture delivered in the University of Leicester, 4 May 1973 Leicester University Press, 1974 ISBN 0-7185-1129-8, ISBN 978-0-7185-1129-6
  4. ^ Rob Kroes, Them and us: questions of citizenship in a globalizing world, University of Illinois Press, p. 208, 2000 ISBN 0-252-06909-9
  5. ^ Marcus Cunliffe, In search of America: transatlantic essays, 1951-1990, p. 307, 1991.
  6. ^ Owram, Doug (1997), Born at the Right Time, Toronto: Univ Of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-8086-3 
  7. ^ http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/its-sweltering-hot-out
  8. ^ http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/raising-free-range-kids
  9. ^ "Blood Spilled Over Man's Perfect Lawn". CBS News. February 11, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  10. ^ Katherine Thomson (April 9, 2008). "Letterman And McCain Trade Barbs On "Late Show"". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 28, 2011. McCain: You kids, get off my lawn! Letterman: That's not your lawn, that's the audience. McCain: I'm gonna call your parents, you kids! Get off my lawn! 
  11. ^ Daniel Kurtzman. "Donald Rumsfeld Jokes". About.com. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  12. ^ Dan DeLuca (September 22, 2011). "Punk-rocker John Doe growing older and happier". Waterville (Maine) Morning Sentinel. Retrieved October 28, 2011. And I think it's important to have some satisfaction if you don't want to become an angry old person. 'You kids, get off my lawn!' 
  13. ^ "About Us". Hey, Get Off My Lawn website. Cox Marketing. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  14. ^ Shira Ovide (October 11, 2011). "Billionaire Tells Occupy Wall Street to Get Off His Lawn". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ Clint Eastwood (actor), Nick Schenk (writer) (January 9, 2009). Gran Torino (Motion picture). Warner Bros. Retrieved October 28, 2000. Get off my lawn  Check date values in: |access-date= (help) Gran Torino - Get Off My Lawn _HD on YouTube
  16. ^ Kenneth Turan (December 12, 2008). "Review: 'Gran Torino'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 28, 2011. Even at 78, Eastwood can make 'Get off my lawn' sound as menacing as 'Make my day' 
  17. ^ "Review: 'Congressional Softball League Team Rankings'". February 23, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  18. ^ Patrick Wintour and Stephen Bates (October 9, 1993). "Major goes back to the old values". The Guardian. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  19. ^ Dan Hodges (October 7, 2011). "Let's not romanticise Ken Clarke". The Guardian. London. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  20. ^ Jay, Antony, ed. (2010). Lend Me Your Ears: Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-19-957267-0. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  21. ^ Kevin Maguire (January 28, 2004). "'Get your tanks off my lawn' Scanlon dies". The Guardian. London. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  22. ^ Charles Arthur (July 8, 2009). "Why Google is parking its tanks on Microsoft's lawn". The Guardian. Retrieved May 4, 2017.