“Peachy Keen”

The idiom peachy keen was originally used to signify that something, someone, some situation, or event were superlative in the coolest, funniest way.

As a grade-schooler in the late 1950s, I remember being delighted by this idiom, sometimes adding jelly bean at the end as an intensifier (Peachy keen, jelly bean!).

But even then, I also recognized in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, there was a faint sense of sarcasm hovering above the phrase despite its otherwise positive meaning, and by now it’s almost impossible to use the idiom peachy keen without summoning at least some notes of irony or condescension.

For example:

Dad: Hey kids, this weekend we’re going to visit nana and grandpa.

The Eldest: Wow. Peachy keen. We can hardly wait.

 

Origin

Jim Hawthorne

DJ Jim Hawthorne, 1918–2007.

The best Web references regarding the origin of the expression peachy keen can be found on the always-enlightening English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, wherein it credits Jim Hawthorne, a West Coast radio disk jockey, with popularizing the idiom in the late 1940s. Citing a May 10, 1948 Time magazine article, Hawthorne is quoted as saying his broadcasts were carried over five Southern California stations on what he called “the net-to-net coastwork of the Oh-So-Peachy-Keen Broadcasting Company.”

Hawthorne’s ever-increasing popularity was due to him being a progenitor of what was soon dubbed “free-style” radio – a way of hosting that in Hawthorne’s case featured his original, always humorous, sometimes wacky, break-the-rules broadcasts that featured the use of West Coast Teen-Bop-Beatnik slang. I mean, can you dig it, daddy-o? Neat-o!

 

Hear Rizzo Use the Term

Peachy Keen used in movie Grease

Look fast because this clip is less than 6 seconds long from the 1978 movie Grease. In its fantastical portrayal of 1950s high school life, Rizzo (Stockard Channing) responds to the query “how’ya bin?” with the reply “Peachy keen, jelly bean.”

By attaching jelly bean after the words peachy keen, this two-part idiom also became a rhyming figure of speech, like see you later, alligator – after while, crocodile and till today youngsters are still delighted by this kind of nonsensical wordplay.

 

In closing…

If readers still can’t quite get what the use of peachy keen was reserved for, below is a series of peachy-worthy people and things.

Cover of Bill Haley and His Commets LP

Bill Haley & His Comets 1955 10” LP Shake Rattle and Roll.

 

A 1950s “sock hop.”

A 1950s “sock hop.” Teens would remove their shoes so as to not scuff the gymnasium floor.

 

Route 66

Route 66 (1960–1964), a much-watched TV series featuring two buddies on the open road. In each episode, as they traveled across America, the lads worked on new jobs and became involved with new people and their stories. Oh yeah, and at the start of every season, they drove a shiny new Corvette. Peachy keen, all right!

 

 

 

 


One Response to ““Peachy Keen””

  • Praline Says:

    This was the favorite expression of a girl I knew 35 years ago. Only she would say ‘peachy cream’. I made sure not to correct her but it was difficult to keep a straight face at times.

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