Jack Robinson (mythical person)

Jack Robinson (mythical person)

Jack Robinson is a fictional person used to indicate a period of time, typically in a sarcastic manner. The normal usage is, "(something is done) faster than you can say Jack Robinson" or otherwise "… before you can say Jack Robinson."


Several possible explanations are cited:

* Supposedly, an English gentleman of the early 1800s named Jack Robinson was a person who changed his mind often, hence a person had to be quick to catch him in a decision.
* Supposedly, in France in the 1800s, an umbrella was known as a Robinson, and when a gentleman needed his umbrella he would call for his servant (inevitably known as Jacques), hence, "Jacques, Robinson!"
* Between 1660 and 1679 the Officer Commanding the Tower of London was one Sir John Robinson. It may be that the speed of beheading with an axe, something regularly done in the Tower at that time, may be the basis, Jack being a well known form of John.
* Another version is that Sir John (Jack) Robinson, the Constable of the Tower of London, held at the same time a judiciary appointment in the nearby City of London, and could and did condemn a felon in the City, then have him transported to the Tower where he commanded the execution, the whole process being done 'faster than you can say Jack Robinson'.
* John Robinson (1727-1802) was Joint Secretary to the Treasury from 1770 to 1782 and regularly acted as a Government Whip, responsible for organising elections and political patronage; of his reputation for political fixing, Nathaniel Wraxall wrote that "No man in the House knew so much of its original composition, the means by which every individual attained his seat, and, in many instances, how far and through what channels he might prove accessible". Therefore fixing something "faster than you can say 'Jack Robinson'" was very fast indeed.



*"The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue", originally by Francis Grose. [http://www.fromoldbooks.org/Grose-VulgarTongue/j/jack-robinson.html]
*"", by C. S. Lewis, Chapter 7.
*"Mere Christianity", by C. S. Lewis, Chapter 1.
*"Timequake", by Kurt Vonnegut, Chapter 8.
*"Good Omens", by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, p. 48.
*"Walden", by Henry David Thoreau, Chapter 15.
*"It", by Stephen King, p. 35.
*"Nicholas Nickleby (novel)", by Charles Dickens, Chapter 46.
*"A Christmas Carol" (play)", by Charles Dickens, Stave II.
*"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (novel)", by Mark Twain, Chapter III pg. 13
*"The Enchanted Castle" (novel)", by Edith Nesbit, Chapter 1.
*"Just So Stories" (stories for little children)", by Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant's Child.
*"Bud, not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis
*"Passing" (novel), by Nella Larsen, p. 114.
*"Pride" (novel) by William Wharton, Chapter 11.

The Arts

*In Sam Shepard's 1967 play, "Forensic & the Navigators" the expression occurs late in the play. It is said by the 2nd Exterminator, before an impending gassing of the bunker.


*"Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" — early in the movie, said by the main character Harry Lockhart (played by Robert Downey Jr.)
*"Slap Shot" — said late in the movie, by Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman), in regards to a boy's sexuality
* "" — given as an example of the litany of "time"-related phrases in use in the English language
*"Sharpe's Revenge" — said by Lady Molly Spindacre (Connie Hyde)
*"Our Relations" - said by Stan Laurel

Online Literature

*"Bastard Operator From Hell", by Simon Travaglia, Episode 36, 2006

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