Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Episode 182: Something to Write Home About Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 182: Something to Write Home About

Record Date: February 12, 2023

Air Date: February 15, 2023



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook

Have you ever been at an event or traveling somewhere exciting and after a while into things, you just haven’t seen or done anything cool. You start to get a little disappointed. All you really want from the experience is for it to be interesting - some might say they want something to write home about. 


Back in the day, before emails, texting, and social media, writing a letter was the main form of communication. When someone was away from home, whether it be for work or traveling, they would write to their family and friends to keep them updated on their adventures.

So, when someone said they had “something to write home about”, it meant they had exciting news or an interesting experience to share with their loved ones in a letter.

Oxford English Dictionary provides this definition for the phrase:


to write home about and variants: that is worth writing to one's friends or family at home about; to boast of, to get excited about. Usually in negative contexts, esp. in nothing to write home about: denoting something that is unremarkable or mediocre.

End Quote 

And that gives us the first thing to address: which came first? 

"Nothing to write home about" 


"Something to write home about"

Well, it's difficult to say which phrase appeared in text first, as the exact date of the first use of either phrase is not well documented. However, both phrases have been in widespread use for many decades and are now commonly recognized expressions in the English language.

As we have learned from researching other phrases, many are in use, especially in the spoken word prior to being found in written works. The exact origins of something to write home about are unknown, but the concept was around for centuries before we find it in print.

Here are a few examples of similar phrases that were used prior to 1800:

    "Something worth the telling"

This phrase was used in the 1600s to convey the idea that there was a significant or interesting event or experience that was worth sharing with others.

    "Matter for correspondence"  

This phrase was used in the 1600s to express that there was something worthy of being written about in a letter or other form of communication.

    "News to tell"

This phrase was used in the 1600s and 1700s to express that there was something worth sharing or informing others about.

    "Tidings to relate"  

This phrase was used in the 1700s to express the same idea as "news to tell".

These phrases convey the idea that there was something of interest or importance that was worth sharing with others, either through oral or written communication. They demonstrate that the idea of having "something to write home about" has been a part of human experience for many centuries.

For simplicity’s sake, and because variants of the phrase are less consistently seen in print, we’re going to focus primarily on something to write home about and we may occasionally see nothing to write home about

This phrase has been in use since the mid 1800s and has since evolved to mean anything worth sharing with others, whether it be in a letter, an email, or a post on social media.

The first attestation I was able to find in print appears in The United Service Magazine in a story titled, The Cruise of the Hurricane, or the Navy as it Was - By a Tar of the Old School which was published in 1843.


End Quote 

Around that same time, it also shows up in Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon By Charles James Lever, Hablot Knight Browne which was published in 1848


End Quote 

In The Democratic press November 29, 1877 edition out of Ravenna, Ohio, we find an interesting observation about people. 

This story begins with a discussion about the limited books a group of shipmen had on their voyage. They’d run out of materials to read, having been delayed in Panama. They soon realized there was no sense in trading with one another as they’d all brought pretty much the same items. This had the author considering how similar men are in thought and that they write the same things. He says, 


End Quote 

According to the article, this story was from A Year of American Travels by Jesse Benton Fremont, originally published in Harper’s Magazine earlier that year. 

I don’t know how true that is overall. I’ve definitely read some incredible works by people and none of those imaginings had ever been in my mind. But perhaps it is true for many of us.

This next excerpt is from 1913 in a periodical called The Mountaineer.   


End Quote 

Next, we have an item from the Evening star October 24, 1926 out of Washington, D.C. The page is a layout of photos with short captions featuring famous or locally popular people from the current time. Then the last row is labeled


When you went to the musical comedy with your father.

End quote

We find our phrase under the photo of a lovely woman wearing a long, fitted jacket and a tall hat. It reminds me a bit of a circus leader, but a little more subtle than that. The caption reads, 


End Quote

Next up is an ad in the Evening star from August 14, 1932 out of Washington, D.C. This happens to be the Sunday edition and the ad is the entire page. I have a feeling it was a tad expensive. 


End Quote 

The Waterbury Democrat November 01, 1935, Waterbury, Connecticut has an ad for coats 


End Quote 

How cold does it get in Connecticut? Like, would they be a good judge about coats? 

Next up we’ll move to our modern uses, right after we say thank you to our sponsors. 

A Quick Thank You

This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

Here’s a snapshot of what a typical week looks like on the feed. 

  • On Mondays we have a conversation about what everyone is reading

  • On Tuesdays the new episode comes out, a full 24 hours before it airs for everyone else

  • Wednesdays see all the links and cool things we talked about on the show

  • Thursday is our Patron’s only poll

  • And on Friday the lightly edited, rarely censored Behind the Scenes video airs, which always includes a little about our week before the show and a cool feature after the show

Plus all the things that made the cutting room floor from that week’s podcast. Available to all Patrons for just $3 per month.

We’ve got some pretty cool stuff at higher levels, too, like Original Digital Artwork once a month, made by Shauna, and awesome name recognition like Pat Rowe gets every episode. And our top spot is currently occupied by the amazing Mary Halsig Lopez. 

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. 


Modern Uses

Something to Write Home About is the second full-length studio album by the American rock band The Get Up Kids. It was released on September 21, 1999. The Get Up Kids are from Kansas City. Their music definitely has that indie rock feel to it. 

Something to Write Home About by Craig Morgan is a country song that was released in 2000. Here are some of the lyrics. 


Hello mom and dad

What's been goin' on

I know it's been a while

Since I've written home

I like my new job

Sure, I like this town

But I finally got me something to write home about

End Quote 

The next lines tell us what he was so excited about…

Dan, any ideas? 


Well with Country music, it’s usually girls, god, mamas, trains, trucks, or getting drunk. I’m going to go with the first one, a girl.  


You guessed it… it’s a girl.


She's got long blond hair and deep blue eyes

She likes her music loud and walkin' in the moonlight

She laughs sometimes, sometimes until she cries

Oh mom I'm in love and dad I'm sure you'd be proud

'Cause I finally got me something to write home about

End Quote

The book Something to Write Home About - Memories from a Presidential Diarist By Janis F. Kearney was published in 2008.

From the publisher


Janis F. Kearney likens her role as Personal Diarist to President William J. Clinton, to "an older, African American Alice in Wonderland." In her book, Kearney recalls a life journey that took her from the cotton farm in southeast Arkansas, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where she served five years as a member of the Clinton Oval Office staff.

End Quote 

Nothing to Write Home About: British Family Correspondence and the Settler Colonial Everyday in British Columbia by Laura Ishiguro was published in 2019. Laura Ishiguro is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia.

The publisher writes, 


In the context of surging interests in reconciliation and decolonization, settler colonialism increasingly occupies political, public, and academic conversations. Turning from the emphasis on Indigenous-settler relations and state policy, Nothing to Write Home About uncovers the colonial significance of trans-imperial families, the everyday, and silence in British family correspondence sent between the United Kingdom and British Columbia between 1858 and 1914.

Drawing on thousands of letters, Nothing to Write Home About is a detailed study offering insights into epistolary topics including intimacy and conflict, boredom and food, and what correspondents chose not to write about.

End Quote 

Published in 2022 is the book Something to Write Home About By Hannah McDonald

The publisher shares, 


Something to Write Home About is a collection of poems exploring the concept of being twenty-something and not having anything figured out.

End quote 

Next we have a statement by Bernard Tekpetey that was shared on February 7, 2023 on Twitter by Wontumi Sports. Bernard is a Ghanaian professional footballer.


End Quote 

To complete the highlight of modern examples, let’s talk about one of my very favorite things… writing utensils. Here is an excerpt from a product feature on The Rake written by Ryan Thompson titled, Yard-O-Led: Something to write home about


Birmingham-based Yard O Led’s handmade sterling silver writing tools are penning a treatise on exquisite craftsmanship and it’s a good read…

I wonder sometimes, if in many years to come, human beings will look back at pictorial evidence of this tech age we live in and wonder why we persisted with such crude writing implements as the pencil and pen when we had touchscreens, screen pens, annotation AI and goodness knows what else at our literal and figurative fingertips. But the relationship between ink and paper is itself a story of human evolution. While societies heaved one way and the other, the pen documented the thrashing tides of change, while the paper held all parties accountable for millennia to come. We are, after all, what we write, but how we write it is important and I'll tell you why.

End quote 

I thought I hadn’t found any art related to this phrase… until I found this story. I had to go find the products! 

These pens and pencils are truly beautiful. The price is steep, as one might expect based on the description. So I won’t be adding these to my collection… unless I win the lottery, maybe? But I’m happy to just know they exist. 

Their website is If you love pens and pencils, these are worth window-shopping. 

Wrap Up

With the advancement of technology, letter writing has evolved into different forms of communication, like emails, texting, and instant messaging. However, despite the ease and convenience of these modern forms of communication, there’s something special about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. The personal touch and effort put into writing and sending a letter shows the recipient that they’re valued and appreciated. It’s a sentimental way of preserving memories and connecting with others, no matter the distance. So, the next time you have something to write home about, consider putting pen to paper and sending an actual, physical letter to someone you care about. 


That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


It’s patron poll time!

Recently we posed this question to our Patrons:

If you could spend some time exploring one region of the ocean, which would it be?

First of all, we should note that naming is a bit contentious, as there is only 1 ocean, but it has 4 or 5 regions.

Here is a note from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


While there is only one global ocean, the vast body of water that covers 71 percent of the Earth is geographically divided into distinct named regions. The boundaries between these regions have evolved over time for a variety of historical, cultural, geographical, and scientific reasons.

Historically, there are four named oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. However, most countries - including the United States - now recognize the Southern (Antarctic) as the fifth ocean. The Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian are the most commonly known.

The Southern Ocean is the 'newest' named ocean. It is recognized by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names as the body of water extending from the coast of Antarctica to the line of latitude at 60 degrees South. The boundaries of this ocean were proposed to the International Hydrographic Organization in 2000. However, not all countries agree on the proposed boundaries, so this has yet to be ratified by members of the IHO. The U.S. is a member of the IHO, represented by the NOS Office of Coast Survey.

End Quote  

We posed the following options:

  • Atlantic

  • Pacific

  • Indian

  • Arctic

  • Southern

  • No oceans for me. I'm thalassophobic. (Fear of the ocean or other large, deep bodies of water.)

The Pacific and Southern Oceans tied for first… and received all of the votes. So I guess the rest of the Oceans are not that interesting to our Patrons. 


Patron JGP said, 


Honestly, I chose the Southern Ocean because it's not one most people think of so is probably usually left out :)

End Quote 

I have to agree with JGP that people don’t really think about the Southern Ocean much. I always struggle with these questions because my answer is just yes. Yes, please. I would like to explore all of the entirety of the Earth, including the Oceans. 

What about you, Dan? 


Everyone knows the Atlantic Ocean is the most boring. And the Arctic sounds cold. The Southern Ocean sounds warm, but if it starts at Antarctica then it is probably cold. I’m probably going with the Pacific in the hopes that I land in Costa Rica or Panama or something. 


As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part. Head over to to take this week’s poll!



Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember, 


Words belong to their users. 

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