there he goes with his eye out

Not that I love it too much, still slang plays some part in communication. Especially the expressions which meaning you can’t get or find in a dictionary, like Has your mother sold her mangle? OR And there he goes with his eye out!
Did your ever meet\use them?

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Speaking for myself and my part of the world - no, never.

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Not here in the US either - it might be fun to guess the meanings though. Maybe, “is your mother crazy?” and “he’s looking for girls.”


I tried looking up ‘Has your mother sold her mangle?’
It was a 19th Century catchphrase (sometimes extended to ‘Has your mother sold her mangle and bought a piano?’ but it seems it didn’t have a specified meaning. It was simply used for all sorts of occasions when a catchphrase was considered pertinent.

It seems ‘there he goes with his eye out’ was similar. I came across this while searching:
In 1840 Charles McKay, in his book Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, listed a number of defunct, yet once hugely popular catchphrases. Among them - has your mother sold her mangle? walker! quoz! flare up! and there he goes with his eye out! Each, as Mackay noted, was “the slang par excellence of the Londoners, and afforded them a vast gratification”. And now? All gone, not to mention forgotten.

and here’s what Charles McKay himself said:
The next phrase was a most preposterous one. Who in­vented it, how it arose, or where it was first heard, are alike unknown. Nothing about it is certain, but that for months it was the slang par excellence of the Londoners, and afforded them a vast gratification. “There he goes with his eye out!” or “There she goes with her eye out!” as the sex of the party alluded to might be, was in the mouth of every body who knew the town. The sober part of the community were as much puzzled by this unaccountable saying as the vulgar were delighted with it. The wise thought it very foolish, but the many thought it very funny, and the idle amused themselves by chalking it upon walls, or scribbling it upon monuments.
But “all that’s bright must fade,” even in slang. The people grew tired of their hobby, and “There he goes with his eye out!” was heard no more in its accustomed haunts.

Another very odd phrase came into repute in a brief space afterwards, in the form of the impertinent and not universally apposite query, “Has your mother sold her mangle?” But its popularity was not of that boisterous and cordial kind which ensures a long continuance of favour. What tended to impede its progress was, that it could not be well applied to the older portions of society. It consequently ran but a brief career, and then sank into oblivion. … cities.htm

Thank you.

My grandmother, who lived in central London (in the UK) from 1913 to 2012, used variations of the phrase “there he goes with his eye out” all the time.

Whilst growing up over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, I remember very clearly that she would say things like “she’s got her eye out” or “you’ve got your eye out”, referring mostly to fictional characters on TV shows but occasionally to someone in real life.

The meaning was obvious - my nan was remarking that the person had dressed to impress. Specifically to impress prospective partners. The meaning was identical to “she’s out on the lookout”, “she’s out on the prowl”, or simply “she’s out to find a new boyfriend”. The way my nan used the term also carried definite implications of immorality - the phrase effectively called out another woman for trying too hard, and/or giving the appearance of prostitution.

How it was said could vary, with some examples clearly stemming at least partly from jealousy, whilst others were much more positive and jovial in tone. At worst, it meant “she’s a slut”, and at best “wow, you look great”. I recall the more positive use was mostly aimed at men, as a sort of old-fashioned acknowledgement that men are mostly oblivious to the mind games women can play with each other via how they present themselves in public. There was a definite sense or implication that women are constantly and knowingly using their appearance to jostle for social position, and someone who ‘had her eye out’ had taken the game too far, losing via making her efforts too obvious.

I strongly suspect the real orgin of the phrase is linked to women pointing out actual prostitutes on the streets of London, something that my nan would have picked up from her parents.

On a slightly related note, my nan also used the phrase “you silly 'oar” all the time - it was her go-to idiom when telling a girl/woman off for doing something stupid. I don’t think it ever occurred to my nan that “oar” was shorthand for “whore”, and this is partly why I think some of her other exclamations, insults and backhanded compliments were all tied to observing (or indirectly via others around her observing) inner city London prostitutes.