“Easy peasy”

My homegirl Ellen Magenheim (who besides being a NOOBs informant is a distinguished Professor of Economics at Swarthmore College) writes: “another one: easy peasy. I just saw it on the Facebook page for Green Aisles Grocery [a South Philadelphia market]; i.e., ‘Easy Peasy Dinner courtesy of Green Aisle and Severino Pastas!'”

Ellen is spot on. The OED’s first citation for the phrase–whose non-rhyming American equivalent is easy as pie–is from 1976, but it originated some years before that in the expression easy peasy lemon squeezy, which may or may not have originated in an advertising slogan for the “washing-up liquid” (aka dish detergent) Lemon Sqezy [sic].

Whatever, easy peasy is now officially all over the U.S.: a blog, a song from the (Baltimore) band Ponytail, a netbook operating system, and the press, including this three days ago from the Huntsville (Alabama) Times: “You would think the area would be thick with restaurants and operating one successfully would be easy-peasy.”

Previously, Ellen had suggested dead easy, noting this quote from a Nicolas Kristof article in the New York Times:

Along with a no-fly zone, another important step would be to use American military aircraft to jam Libyan state television and radio propaganda and Libyan military communications. General McPeak said such jamming would be “dead easy.”

But that will have to wait for another day.

29 thoughts on ““Easy peasy”

  1. I first heard “easy peasy lemon squeezy” in the wonderful 2009 political satire “In the Loop.” One of the characters proposes the converse: “Difficult difficult lemon difficult.”

  2. In elementary/primary school England in the 1980s, the non-PC version we used was “easy peasy Japanese-y”.

    I hasten to add that this this wasn’t, to my knowledge, associated with any kind of racial animus against the Japanese: it was just a nonsense-word that rhymed. Although, looking back, I can understand that if any Japanese had been present they might have felt uncomfortable.

  3. Yes, dw, I remember it well. The full playground rhyme was:

    “Easy peasy
    Wash your hair
    In Lemon Sqezy.”

    Let’s hope the phrase doesn’t catch on in the USA – it has a childish ring to it and makes adults who use it sound like imbeciles. By the way, I thought Lemon Sqezy was dead and gone until I saw this on the Starbrands site:

    “We’ve given Sqezy a whole new funky and distinctive look a little bit retro but a lot about today – and we’d like you to give it a squeeze! From its origins in 1958 when Sqezy was launched as the world’s first washing up liquid in a plastic squeezy bottle, we’ve now brought it bang up to date. Although when you consider that 99.9% of people can complete the line ‘Easy peasy ..’ you’d hardly believe that it had ever been away! It’s even better now, and is so much faster and easier to use it really is ‘quick as a wink away from the sink!'”

    1. Thanks to you and Nancy for mentioning that; I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to be reminded of it! I have no idea why I find that joke quite so funny.

  4. Actually, you are not correct to say this is a phrase that is new to the US- or Philadelphia for that matter. I also remember hearing it often as a child growing up in Philadelphia ( a city which had quite a large number of Irish and Scots immigrants) in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I remember it as easy-peasy, and also said with ‘Japanesie’ at the end of it. I agree it sounds silly though, and while I’m sure the original intent was not meant to be in anyway derogatory, it’s definitely not PC in this day and age.

    1. Yes you are correct. I believe most Americans watched this movie, and took that line away with them. I confess to being one.

  5. I’ve heard it for a number of years, but then again I live in NY where evidently we heard more Briticisms and Yiddish then people in many areas of the country. 😉

  6. “Easy peasy Japanesey” is used in Frank Darabont’s superb script, “The Shawshank Redemption,” in a line voiced by the character Brooks Hatlen (spoken sadly, memorably and gruffly by actor James Whitmore). The script was written in 1993. I couldn’t find the line, however, in the original Stephen King story, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” first published in 1982.

  7. My mother, a Philadelphian, always said” jeezy-peasy,” as did her brothers. She said my grandmother, also a Philadelphian, b. 1883, always said it too, but my mother didn’t know where it came from or what it meant.

  8. A 1961 book written by Harpo Marx uses “easy peasy” several times throughout the autobiography entitled ‘Harpo Speaks.’ Having read it several years ago, i’m not sure, but it may date back to Marx brothers usage in Harlem in the early 1900’s.

  9. I remember my grandfather sometimes saying “Easy peasy J_____” in the 60s. He didn’t use it in a derogatory manner towards the Japanese people, it was just a phrase he used.

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