‘more — than someone has had hot dinners’

The colloquial phrase to have done something more than oneself, or someone else, has had hot dinners is jocularly used to emphasise the subject’s wide experience of a particular activity or phenomenon.

The earliest instance that I have found is from The Bury Free Press (Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk) of Saturday 25th September 1937:

THE CIRCUS IS COMING.
A Rare Animal at Bury.

As will be seen by an announcement in this issue, Lord John Sanger’s circus, with all its glamour and gaiety, is coming to Bury St. Edmund’s. The attractions are numerous, and kiddies and grown-ups alike will find that the entertainment value is of a very high order. There are twenty star turns, including the one and only Pimpo, the clown who has caused more laughs in a performance than he has had hot dinners. Another star is “Jumbo,” an elephant which challenges, not only the Bury Town goalkeeper, but any custodian, to keep goal against him. He shoots goals with unerring precision and has marvellous ball control.
Also presented is the famous horse which dances the “Carioca,” among many other steps. For thrills there are the untamable lions, with Clemens Merk waging combat with “Suliman,” the forest-bred man-killer. The old favourites, the sea lions, are, of course, one of the attractions, whilst pigeons also form part of the programme. Other acts include jumping kangaroos, educated horses, riding monkeys, and the thrill-mongers of any circus—daring gymnasts. A rare and clever animal is to be seen. What is it? Is it an Okapi? See this animal at the circus at the Playfield next Thursday.

advertisement for Lord John Sanger’s circus
The Bury Free Press (Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk) – 25th September 1937

Sanger’s circus - Bury Free Press (Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk) - 25 September 1937

 

The second-earliest occurrence that I have found is from Whitcomb in Paradise…, by the English journalist Noel Whitcomb (1918-93), published in the Daily Mirror (London) on Monday 18th April 1949:

Although there’s no pub in Paradise¹, there’s one not far away. Joe Nolan keeps it—a chunky Irishman who looks like Jimmy Durante² and is a born comic.
I always think that if there were a pub in the real, celestial Paradise, an Irishman would probably run it—probably an Irishman like Joe Nolan.
He has a heavy, deceptively innocent-looking face, a baldish dome and eyes that pop out at you as he tells his fantastic stories.
Everything to Joe is “the greatest in the world.” Boxers?—Joe has seen ’em. All of ’em. He’ll admit it. He’ll tell you he’s seen more fights than Bruce Woodcock³ has had hot dinners.
Horse races? Joe has seen ’em all. He juggles with great names as if he’d grown up with ’em. Lords and Dukes and Kings.
Then at the end of his fantastic stories Joe will give you a wink.
“I’m a bit of a romancer at times,” he sighs with a grin that spreads half way down his back.

¹ Paradise: a hamlet off the Somerset coast
² Jimmy Durante (1893-1980), American singer, pianist, comedian and actor
³ Bruce Woodcock (1921-97), English boxer who held the British and Empire heavyweight titles from 1945 to 1950, and was the European heavyweight champion from 1946 to 1949

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