November 7, 2020

"That’s the way the cookie crumbles and that’s the way the ball bounces are... the two commonest of a score of variant [catchphrases] for That’s fate–that’s the way things go..."

According to Eric Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases":
that’s the way (or that’s how) the cookie crumbles ... It has been a frequent c.p. in the US since the 1950s and in UK since the middle 1960s... in 1975, Prof. Emeritus F.E.L. Priestley spoke of ‘the now happily obsolete “that’s the way the cookie crumbles”’ and referred to ‘the lovely take-off line in the movie The Apartment [1960] when Jack Lemmon says, “That’s the way it crumbles cookiewise” ’–when he is also deriding ‘the horrible “-wise” jargon of about ten years ago’ (F.E.L.P.).  

Continuing with the catchphrase dictionary:

In The Zoo Story, prod. in Berlin 1959, in New York 1960, and pub’d in 1960, Edward Albee employs the more usual form thus:

 JERRY: And you have children?

 PETER: Yes; two.

JERRY: Boys?

PETER: No, girls. . . . both girls.  

JERRY: But you wanted boys.

PETER: Well . . . naturally, every man wants a son, but . . .

JERRY: But that’s the way the cookie crumbles? 

PETER: (Annoyed.) I wasn’t going to say that.... 

An early instance of its Brit. currency occurs in Patrick Campbell’s Come Here Till I Tell You, 1960, ‘ “Well... that’s how the cookie crumbles.”–“I beg your pardon?”–“It’s a new American expression from the advertising boys on Madison Avenue. A philosophic comment on disaster. One can also say, ‘That’s how the grapefruit squirts’.”’ 

It was a format for a joke back in the 60s. Once you had "That's the way the ball bounces" and "That's the way the cookie crumbles," you could create endless jokes. The only other one I could remember, before I looked around and came up with this book, was the other one you see there: "That's the way the grapefruit squirts." Do you know any others from back when this was a very common way to make a joke? Better yet, can you — looking at our present-day fate — make a joke using that pattern?


BrentonTalcott said...

That's the way shit stinks.


tcrosse said...

That’s the way the green breaks.

Rob said...

That's the way the dementia presents.

Sally327 said...

I don't know, maybe that's the way the virus mutates. That's not really funny, though.

I hear Emmylou singing C'est La Vie (You Never Can Tell). Or Chuck Berry, whatever your preference.

mikee said...

The young Shirley MacLaine. Now there's a cookie for ya.

mikee said...

That's the way trust in the integrity of the election crumbles.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That's the way the Joe bidens

The Godfather said...

"The Apartment" was a wonderful movie, with several excellent actors. Released in 1960. I was 17. Shirley McLaine was too old for me, but I could dream couldn't I?

William said...

I like the stoic acceptance embedded in the phrase. It's impossible to break the cookie into even portions, so just accept your portion. Also the prize involved, i.e. a cookie, is not worth all that much of a fuss. (I presume the cookie involved is oatmeal-raisin, not chocolate chip.)...The phrase is archaic rather than outdated. The fact that the cliche is from another time gives it more gravitas. We and our ancestors have chowed down other crumbled cookies since time immemorial, so let's not get too excited about this particular cookie. That's the way the mop flops as it cleans up the spilled milk and cookie crumbs.

Jorg Jorgensen said...

That’s the way the the pussy grabs.

mikee said...

I don't recall trying it with crumbly cookies, but in my family of 6 kids, the one who did the cake slicing got to choose his piece last. Made for some meticulously careful cuts of cake.