I'll go to the foot of our stairs! (Idiom)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by James Brandon, Jul 22, 2008.

  1. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    The expression "I'll go to the foot of our stairs" is used to express surprise. It is a form of exclamation. Similar ones would be "Stone the crows!" (a bit old-fashioned, no doubt) or "Christopher Columbus!" (ditto), or the more common "Jesus Christ!"

    There is no problem with the meaning, by which I mean the way it is used.

    I have found that it is mostly Northern English, and more particularly related to Yorkshire. Apparently, it is still in use. It is frequently featured in sitcoms etc when there is a typical Yorkshire character, in order to add a bit of local 'colour'.

    No one seems to know where the expression comes from. Why: "Go to the foot of (the stairs)"? Why would it come into it at all, when expressing surprise? Or is this one of those deliberately absurd phrases used in a tongue-in-cheek way? "Our" seems to imply the person is talking about his or her family-home.

    Suggestions welcome.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2008
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I love this expression. But I've only ever ~ to the best of my recollection ~ heard it as a 'stereotypical' Northern thing, i.e. I've never heard anyone (including me) use it unselfconsciously. Of course, this isn't to say that in the past it was used otherwise.
    As to why it should be the foot of our stairs and not the top of our stairs (or even our backyard gate, or somewhere else), I'd think we can only guess, James.

    EDIT: Incidentally, mention of backyard gate has reminded me of another expression in exactly the same vein, used for when a person is famished: I could eat a scabby donkey between two backyard gates.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2008
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Well, here's one suggestion, James: the idea that it was a deliberately comical variant of "I'll go to hell".

    I can't tell if the suggestion's plausible or not, not being a user of the expression:)
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Ah! interesting, Loobies. That would (perhaps) explain the 'stagey' feel of it.
  5. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Ok, very interesting. It would be a way of not using "go to hell", along the lines of "gorblimey" in Cockney English being a disguised form of "God Almighty!" as far as I understand.

    Why choose "the foot of our stairs", though? Maybe because the idea is, if you start going up the stairs, eventually, you will rise and rise, and arrive in heaven (or hell, as the case may be). In other words, this would explain why "foot" it is, as opposed to "top".

    I get the feeling this is one of those expressions that are never used unselfconsciously, i.e. that are always used in ironic manner, particularly nowadays. This would explain why it is used in soap operas with Yorkshire characters etc - scriptwriters love a good cliché, particularly if they do not come from the region in question...

    All the references I have seen do mention N England, Ewie. And thanks for the other - very funny - idioms: I shall try and use the donkey one at the nearest opportunity! :D
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    From Phrasefinder.org
    Go to the foot of the stairs - phrase meaning and origin

    Go to the foot of the stairs - phrase meaning and origin
  7. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I distinctly remember an occasion when a chap from Oldham (northern England) said "Well, I'll go to our 'ouse" (as per Paul's quote, above) in my presence. I don't know if there was any self-consciousness involved.

    Funnily enough, one of our forum colleagues today used "Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs" in another thread. I know that he learned the expression from a northerner. I of course don't know if that northerner used it self-consciously.

    All a bit different from the "Well I'm blowed!" used by my father, who's from so far dahn sahth that it's almost in the sea.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  8. Barque Senior Member

    My first reaction after reading the OP was that it meant: I'm so surprised that I might fall down the stairs (if the speaker was standing at the top).:) Something like You could have knocked me down with a feather. But it seems from Paul's post 6 that there's a different explanation.
  9. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    Perhaps heypresto has a view on this, given that he used it in #6 of this thread (0 in table tennis).

    (I have never heard it before.)

Share This Page