A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 19, 2019
Seven Year Itch

The “seven year itch” (also “seven-year itch” or “seven years itch") is an attack of scabies, said to keep the victim scratching for seven years or more. “Seven Years ITCH Cured!” was printed in the Portland (ME) Gazette on October 25, 1815.

There was a frequent “seven year itch” joke. “A YOUNG man, ‘away down in Dixie,’ was asked his age, to which he answered, ‘Wal, I don’t know exactly, but I have had the seven-years’ itch three times’” (that is, he’s 21 years old) was printed in The Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, OH) on March 5, 1864. “I’ve had the seven year itch four times and according to my teacher four times seven makes twenty-eight” (that is, he’s 28 years old) was printed in University Life (Wichita, KS) on February 28, 1925.

The Seven Year Itch (1952), a play by George Axelrod (1922-2003), used the term to describe marital infidelity, when someone married gets the urge to stray. The 1955 film of The Seven Year Itch, directed by Billy Wilder, starred American actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, and was famous for its New York City scene where she stood over a subway grate and her white dress was blown upwards.

The “seven year itch” term became applied to other seven-year periods, such as seven years on the same job.

A “six-year itch” is when a a two-term U.S. president sees a constituency stray to another party and suffers devastating mid-term elections.

[This entry includes prior research by Garson O’Toole on the American Dialect Society listserv.]


Wikipedia: Scabies
Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The most common symptoms are severe itchiness and a pimple-like rash. Occasionally, tiny burrows may be seen in the skin. In a first-ever infection a person will usually develop symptoms in between two and six weeks.

Wikipedia: The seven-year itch
The seven-year itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage. The phrase originated as a name for irritating and contagious skin complaints of a long duration. Examples of reference may have included STD outbreaks that are known to significantly decrease in frequency after seven years, or mites that live under the skin (scabies) and cause severe itching that is hard to get rid of. Later on in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was viewed as an expression of imagined appropriate punishment for antisocial behavior, or as a simile for a situation with little hope in relief.

The phrase was first used to describe an inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage in the play The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod, and gained popularity following the 1955 film adaptation starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. In his 1913 novel The Eighth Year, Philip Gibbs attributes the concept to the British judge Sir Francis Jeune.

Wikipedia: The Seven Year Itch (play)
The Seven Year Itch is a 1952 three-act play written by George Axelrod starring Tom Ewell and Vanessa Brown.

The titular phrase, which refers to declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage, has been used by psychologists.[1]

The play was filmed in 1955 as The Seven Year Itch, directed and co-written by Billy Wilder and starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
seven year(s’ itch (orig. U.S.), used to designate conditions supposed to last for, appear, or recur after, seven years; frequently applied jocularly to an urge towards infidelity after seven years of marriage.
1854 H. D. Thoreau Walden 355 These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have had the seven-years’ itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet in Concord.
1899 C. W. Chesnutt Conjure Woman 154 Lawsuits wuz slow ez de seben-yeah eetch.

25 October 1815, Portland (ME) Gazette, pg. 4, col. 3 ad:
Seven Years ITCH Cured!

7 November 1816, The True American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia, PA), pg. 4, col. 2 ad:
JAMES W. SIMES,
Wholesale & Retail Druggist.
(...)
... that not only is the common Itch cured by it, but, what is known by the name of the seven years Itch, and scald head, is entirely eradicated by one or two applications.

Newspapers.com
14 April 1837, The Herald (New York, NY), pg. 2, col. 3:
Our State Bank is a complete political machine, and has inflicted upon us a set of men calling themselves merchants,—[loafers, rather—Bennett,] who have been a greater pest to the community than would have been a seven years’ itch.

Newspapers.com
23 November 1838, The Liberator (Boston, MA), pg. 1, col. 5:
From the Herald of Freedom.
Color-Phobia.
(...)
The color-phobia is making terrible havoc among our communities. Anti-slavery drives it out—and after a while cures it. But it is a base, low, vulgar ailment. It is meaner in fact that the itch. it is worse to get rid of than the ‘seven years itch.’

Newspapers.com
19 January 1839, The Voice of Freedom (Montpelier, VT), pg. 1, col. 3:
From the Herald of Freedom.
Color-Phobia.
(...)
The color-phobia is making terrible havoc among our communities. Anti-slavery drives it out—and after a while cures it. But it is a base, low, vulgar ailment. It is meaner in fact that the itch. it is worse to get rid of than the ‘seven years itch.’

29 March 1839, The Ohio Statesman (Columbus, OH), pg. 4, col. 5 ad:
To the Afflicted.
DR. MASON’S Indian Vegetable Panacea, which may be taken with perfect safety, by all ages, for the cure of the following diseases:-- Dyspepsia, Scrofula, afflictions of the Chest and Lungs, Cods, Coughs, Liver complaints, Mercurial disease, Ulcers, Sores (...) also, that corruption so commonly known in the western country as the scab or seven year itch, &c.

Newspapers.com
17 July 1841, Pittsburgh (PA) Daily Gazette, pg. 2, col. 5:
By C. Hopkins. This day we celebrate, as it returns, for it being the day on which our forefathers declared their independence, resolved to suffer years of privation, seven of which were sacrificed—and may the man that will not celebrate its return, be afflicted with seven years’ itch, ride on a slave’s horse without trousers, and without privilege of scratching.

Newspapers.com
5 March 1864, The Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, OH), pg. 4, col. 1:
A YOUNG man, “away down in Dixie,” was asked his age, to which he answered, “Wal, I don’t know exactly, but I have had the seven-years’ itch three times.”

Newspapers.com
28 February 1925, University Life (Wichita, KS), pg. 5, col. 2:
Senior (to a Frosh, whose little cap seemed to be about three shades brighter than the other): “How old are you?”
Frosh: “Twenty-eight.”
Senior: “Twenty-eight? How do you get that way?’
Frosh: “I’ve had the seven year itch four times and according to my teacher four times seven makes twenty-eight.”

OCLC WorldCat record
The complete text of The seven year itch
Author: George Axelrod
Publisher: New York : Theatre Arts, 1954, ©1952.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The seven year itch : a romantic comedy
Author: George Axelrod
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, [1955, ©1953]
Edition/Format: Print book : Fiction : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The Seven-Year Itch
Author: C D Alergant
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: Sexually Transmitted Infections, v37 n3 (19610901): 200-201

OCLC WorldCat record
The Academic Seven Year Itch and A Possible Home Remedy
Author: Catherine M Warrick Affiliation: Metropolitan State College
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Western College Reading Association, v12 n1 (197904): 1-5

OCLC WorldCat record
Seven year itch.
Author: Etta James
Publisher: Island, ©1988.
Edition/Format: Music CD : CD audio : No Linguistic Content

OCLC WorldCat record
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: The Seventh Year Itch
Author: Frank Otto
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: CALICO Journal, v7 n1 (19890901): 3

29 March 1992, New York (NY) Times, “The Seven Year Itch” by William Safire, pg. SM16:
“I was writing jokes for a hillbilly comedian called Rod Brassfield,” recalls Mr. Axelrod, “who starred with Minnie Pearl on the ‘Grand Ole Opry’ radio show.” Mr. Brassfield liked cow jokes: ...

“One of his favorite lines was: ‘I know she’s over 21 because she’s had the seven-year itch four times!’ That hideous line,” says Mr. Axelrod, now 69, “was running through my head when I was desperately seeking a title for the play I had just finished that was free from cow jokes forever.

“In the first draft, the guy had been married 10 years (as had I) but the title, when it came, had a natural ring to it and I changed the number of years the hero had been married accordingly.

OCLC WorldCat record
BT’s seven-year itch
Edition/Format: Article Article
Publication: CABLE AND SATELLITE EUROPE, (March 1993): 58

OCLC WorldCat record
Seven Year Itch?: German unity from a fiscal viewpoint.
Author: Ullrich Hellermann
Publisher: American Inst. for Contemporary Ger, 1997.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Tuesday, November 19, 2019 • Permalink


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