Received a get well card earlier this week from a friend who surprised me by saying:
Get well soon! We need our Larry to be as happy as Larry again!
I thought that was a weird phrase so of course I asked everyone’s good buddy Google about it. Turns out that once upon a time this was a common phrase in the UK. Here’s just a part of what LiteraryDevices.Com had to say:
The phrase “as happy as Larry” means a very happy person. The phrase is most suitable for the person who always remains happy, laughs a lot even when the things are not in their favor. Also, the phrase is used as a simile to compare a person’s happiness.
Phrases.Org.UK goes into more detail, explaining that the first literary use of “as happy as Larry” “is from the New Zealand writer G. L. Meredith, dating from 1875 or so: ‘We would be as happy as Larry if it were not for the rats’.”
I’m grateful to both sources for informing me that the phrase probably originated in Australia and was based on one (or, perhaps, both) of the following:
- An Australian boxer named Larry Foley (1847-1917), who, depending on the storyteller, was happy because he never lost a fight, or because he won a purse of £1,000 in his last bout
- The Cornish/Australian/New Zealand word “larrikin,” used as slang for someone who enjoyed “larking about”
As someone who has indeed enjoyed larking about, I’m partial to the second explanation. But I also feel honored by the comparison to such a fine figure of a man as the historical Larry Foley, who clearly was my kind of guy, as shown in my brand new signature icon here: