A reduplication of easy, the colloquial adjective easy-peasy means very straightforward and easy.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED – 3rd edition, 2002), easy-peasy originated in British English; the earliest instance that the OED has recorded is from The Bookseller (London) of Saturday 22nd January 1966.
But the earliest occurrence that I have found seems to invalidate that origin. It is from The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) of Saturday 17th January 1953, in the review by the American journalist Ellis Brownell Radcliffe (1904-77) of Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952), a British film about attempts by aircraft designers and test pilots to break the sound barrier, directed by David Lean, starring Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd and Nigel Patrick:
The flight is such an easy-peasy affair for the air travellers, they seem to be motionless in a fantastic and lovely, sun-drenched cloudland.
There exist various jocular extended, rhyming forms of easy-peasy. In particular, the earliest use of easy-peasy lemon squeezy that the OED has recorded is from The Independent (London) of Monday 29th October 1990.
However, I have found an earlier occurrence in June Counsel on the problems of pointing a 16-year-old towards a career: On the right track, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester) of Tuesday 21st June 1983:
Chap comes in, sits down, says, “I want to be a marine biologist.” Easy peezy [sic] lemon squeezy. Careers master looks up the best universities, suggests the right colleges, flushes out the appropriate courses. But chap lumbers in, slumps down, mumbles, “I dunno” and that’s where the sweat begins to bead the brow, the brain go [sic] into overdrive and all the skills come into play.
I have also found the following extended form in the National Football League page of the San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) of Friday 5th October 2012:
Eagles at Steelers (-3½): Take a healed-up Pittsburgh team off a bye that is trying to avoid going 1-3. They’re facing a road team that’s coming off an emotional win over its rival. As the 5-year-old says, easy-peezy [sic], lemon-squeezy, macaroni-cheesy. STEELERS
It is often claimed that the extended form easy-peasy lemon squeezy originated in the advertising slogan easy-peasy lemon Sqezy:
– allegedly used in the United Kingdom for Sqezy, the first washing-up liquid in plastic bottles, produced by Domestos Ltd.;
– variously dated to the late 1950s, the 1960s, or the 1970s.
(It is even sometimes claimed that the adjective easy-peasy itself originated in that advertising slogan.)
In “Easy peasy lemon squeezy”, Barry Popik notes that the AdSlogans database contains the following:
SLOGAN Easy peasy lemon Sqezy
PRODUCT washing liquid
But, at least according to the search that I have conducted in the British newspapers available on the Internet:
– neither easy-peasy lemon Sqezy nor the shorter form easy-peasy have ever been used in printed advertisements for Sqezy;
– no Sqezy lemon washing-up liquid has ever been produced.
In fact, the advertising slogan for this washing-up liquid was chiefly and originally It’s easy with Sqezy, preceded or followed by various lines:
– From June 1957 to June 1958: Washing up? It’s easy with Sqezy during the first advertising campaign for Sqezy.
– From September 1958 to November 1959: It’s easy with Sqezy in the easy squeezy pack.
– From November 1959 to October 1960: Quick as a wink away from the sink […] it’s easy with Sqezy.
– From February to October 1961: Washing up? It’s easy with Sqezy.
– In February 1962: Washing up – It’s easy with Sqezy, in advertisements for Super Sqezy.
From May to December 1962, the slogan was Really clean – (They’re) Sqezy clean. In November 1963, the slogan for the New Extra Power Sqezy was Sqezy lasts longer. It seems that, from 1964 to 1996, Sqezy was on the market only occasionally and that no advertising campaign was made. The name of the product then ceases to appear in British newspapers.
It seems to me, therefore, that the phrase easy-peasy lemon squeezy has been associated with the washing-up liquid Sqezy by folk etymology.
The following is the very first advertisement for Sqezy, from The Coventry Evening Telegraph (Coventry, Warwickshire) of Thursday 13th June 1957:
It’s easy with Sqezy!
THE WONDER WASHING-UP LIQUID
easy because . . .
Golden-fresh, lightning-fast Sqezy banishes every trace of film dullness . . . brings extra brightness, extra fast drying and saves half your time. Sqezy is new . . . Sqezy is the dishwashing wonder . . . Sqezy is bubbling energy, miracle-quick with grease and faster than ever before . . . a mirror-bright sparkle in every dish, every glass and all your cutlery.
easy because . . .
Sqezy is first with a plastic squeeze container . . . first with extra concentration plus an economy spray nozzle and first to pack into one handy size container more dishwashing than in packets of powder. The smart Sqezy pack can stay always at your sink . . . waterproof . . . unbreakable . . . nothing to go soggy.
easy because . . .
Sqezy is easy on the hands — contains Glycerine for special care. Easy on the pocket too … for only 2/- a single container of miracle-action Sqezy will give weeks of washing up. The economy spray nozzle prevents waste — one squeeze of concentrated Sqezy is enough for a family wash-up — no measuring — just pick up and squeeze. Get SQEZY today and start taking time off.
SQEZY for daily dishwashing — a product of DOMESTOS LTD., makers of Bubbly STERGENE.
3 thoughts on “notes on the origin of ‘easy-peasy (lemon squeezy)’”
Growing up in the US in the 1970’s, the expression was “easy-peasy, Japanese-y”. As a parent, I learned that expression was frowned upon, and we were to say “lemon squeezey” instead, to avoid offense. I’d assumed that was newly-minted. Interesting to see that’s not the case!
Did you come across the “Japanese-y” variant? I wonder if it’s only American, and when it originated.
I’ve not looked it up yet, but I probably will.
I live in Britain, and people in their late 50s told me that a comedian’s catchphrase on TV many years ago was “easy-peasy, Japanesey, wash your hair in lemon squeezy”. Unfortunately, those persons can’t remember who that comedian was.
Lemon Sqezy was indeed produced along with lime and orange flavored variants as shown in a television commercial available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jittOv0ESg