Founder Alan Stillman in front of the original TGI Friday's in New York City.
Founder Alan Stillman in front of the original TGI Friday’s in New York City.

Reader Rosalind Mitchell commented on the recent ta-ta post that the 1940s radio serial “ITMA” (or, “It’s that Man Again”) “also gave us TGIF (‘Thank Goodness It’s Friday’), and since this is now a US-based global restaurant chain this is surely also a NOOB.”

That intrigued me, as how could it not?

The initialism is best known, at least to me, from the restaurant chain mentioned by Ms. Mitchell, which is officially known as “TGI Friday’s” and sometimes called merely as “Friday’s.” Wikipedia reports that in 1965, a young New Yorker named Alan Stillman “purchased a bar he often visited, The Good Tavern at the corner of 63rd Street and First Avenue, and renamed it T.G.I. Friday’s after the expression “Thank God! It’s Friday!” from his years at Bucknell University.” (There are now about 920 restaurants in the chain, around the world.)

The first time TGIF appeared in the New York Times was in a 1959 article about the U.S. Air Force missile- and rocket-testing site in Cocoa Beach, Florida, which had this sidebar:

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Then came Stillman’s popular joint–one of the first of the “singles bars” on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The next time the initials appeared in the Times was in a 1969 cartoon (and I’m still not sure how this happened, given that the newspaper is famous for not publishing cartoons). The spot, by Henry Martin, shows Robinson Crusoe spotting a native through some bushes. The inevitable caption: “TGIF!”

A Times reader wrote in to say he wasn’t familiar with the expression, and an editors’ note defined it and explained it was a favorite of–get this–the “Now Generation.” That occasioned a slew of other letters purporting to explain that “TGIF” was much older. One asserted that TGIF went back “at least 30 years–when I first started working in an office, and every stenographer and file clerk intoned those magic initials on Friday afternoons, while combing her hair in the ladies’ room.” Another claimed the initialism was invented by one Richard Amper during a “beer bout” near the University of Missouri in 1934.

It’s hard to verify those claims. But Jonathon Green’s authoritative Encyclopedia of Slang provides an authoritative 1941 quote, from the [Marion, Ohio] Star:

I thought I’d heard of everything in the way of booster clubs, alumni organization and the like, but this city, home of the Ohio State university Buckeyes […] has come up with one that tops them all. It’s the “Thank God It’s Friday” Club, composed entirely of undergraduates here at State. […] A typical meeting of the TGIF club foes something like this….

Now, “ITMA” ran from 1939 to 1949, and it’s possible that someone on the show uttered TGIF before the Ohio State club adopted it, but I’m dubious. For now, I’m going to label TGIF not only not a Not One-Off Britishism, but not a Britishism at all.

7 thoughts on “TGIF

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