meaning and origin of ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it’

The colloquial phrase put that in your pipe and smoke it and its variants mean accept or put up with what has been said or done, even if it is unwelcome.

Its earliest recorded occurrence is Irish English and is associated with the obsolete figurative sense to consider of the verb smoke; it is from the beginning of a “curious and entertaining letter […] supposed to be written by a penitent rebel peasant”, published by James Alexander in the Appendix to Some Account of the First Apparent Symptoms of the Late Rebellion in the County of Kildare (Dublin: Printed by John Jones, 1800)—this letter “was originally designed for the Waterford Chronicle”:

I think I can give the peephill that reeds the Water-fart Chronickhill, sum hints vorth shmoaking; and af yew don’t prent them, fwhy—Na bocklesh! That’s all! Put that in your pipe and shmoak it!
     in standard English:
I think I can give the people that read the Waterford Chronicle some hints worth smoking [= considering]; and if you don’t print them, why—Never mind! That’s all! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

The earliest occurrence of put that in your pipe and smoke it that I have found is from a theatrical review published in The Public Ledger, and Daily Advertiser (London, England) of Friday 27th December 1822; the phrase is associated with a probably stereotyped Irish character 1 and with the working class, who occupied the pit and galleries (cf. the phrase to play to the gallery):

Royalty.—A new and magnificent Oriental Serio-comic Piece, called Zadoc; or, The Sorcerer, written by Mr. J. H. Amherst, was produced at this Theatre […].
[…] The humourous [sic] character of an Irishman who finds his way into the service of the Prince of Persia, and becomes one of his principal Officers, by Mr. Bryant, excited reiterated bursts of applause and laughter. This character seemed more suited to the entertainment of the Pit and Galleries than any other part of the performance; because the witticisms were better understood, and better relished by that part of the audience. “Put that in your pipe and smoke it,” a sarcastic expression which frequently recurred, never missed exciting the laugh to which it pointed.

1 On theatrical stereotypes of the Irish, cf. a linguistic investigation into hooliganism.

In Americans Abroad; or, Notes and Notions. A Farcical Comedy, in Two Acts, by R. B. Peake. First produced at the Lyceum Theatre, September 3rd, 1824 (London: J. Dicks, 18–), the English playwright Richard Brinsley Peake (1792-1847) makes a character use the phrase punningly during a dialogue about tobacco:

Tidy. You will doubtless excuse me taking the liberty, sir, but there is no smoking allowed in the Waterloo Hotel.
Dou. Oh! the dickens—I’m stunded!
Tidy. It is considered a filthy custom, more honoured in the breach than the observance—this hotel is remarkably clean.
Dou. (Writes.) “No tobacco allowed in England.” There—(Shuts book.) put that in your pipe and smoke it. There’s another slap at ’em!
(Doubikins continues with a cigar in his mouth.)
Tidy. You still have got the cigar, sir!
Dou. Oh, yes. I’m like the Fultem steamboat, I can’t go on without smoking, I guess.

The phrase occurs in this humorous story published in The Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette (Devizes, Wiltshire, England) of Thursday 23rd September 1824:

Mr. John Henry Bertram was charged with having committed an assault and battery on the person of Mrs. Anne Archer; which assault and battery was denied in toto by Mr. John Henry Bertram, and thereupon issue was joined.
Mr. John Henry Bertram, it appeared, is a diminisher of mauvaise honte, a promoter of mirth and minstrelsy and merry matches, a consumer of wax-candles, kid shoes, resin and roman strings, and a contemner of nocturnal sleep—that is to say, he is a dancing master, and occupies the first floor of Mrs. Archer’s house. Mrs. Archer is a lady of rather acetose temperament, and a great stickler (though but a little body) for clean stairs and the respect due from lodgers to landladies—between which two classes of his Majesty’s subjects there is, in her opinion, an immense distance; and to these reasons, all and some, she entertained a rooted dislike for Mr. John Henry Bertram; for his pupils dirtied her stairs, and he laughed to scorn the dignities of landladyship.
On Tuesday evening last, as Mrs. Archer was standing at her own proper door, “enjoying the cool,” and listening to the melodious twang-lang-a-dillo of a peripatetic harperess, it so happened that one Miss Jemima Brown—a pupil of Mr. Bertram’s, pushed rudely past, in her way up stairs to Mr. Bertram’s apartments, for the purpose of taking her customary evening lesson on quadrilling. Now, Miss Jemima Brown is the daughter of a respectable last-maker, who makes lasts in a snug little shop opposite Mrs. Archer’s house; and Mrs. Archer thinks it such a piece of vanity in a last-maker to send his daughters a quadrilling, that she has been heard to say “it was high time he had made his last last.” So, when Miss Jemima Brown, the last-maker’s daughters pushed by Mrs. Archer in manner aforesaid, Mrs. Archer caught her at the foot of the stairs, and insisted upon her going back to the door, and ringing Mr. Bertram’s Bell—“For,” said Mrs. Archer, “no paltry caper cutter 2 shall make my hall an open thoroughfare!”—“Upon my word, Mrs. Archer!” replied Miss Jemima Brown—expanding her fair eyes with astonishment; but being a gentle girl, and a good deal alarmed at Mrs. Archer’s impetuosity, she went back, rang the bell, and was admitted in due form by an attendant of Mr. Bertram’s.— However, when she got up stairs, she told Mr. Bertram what had happened, and Mr. Bertram, laying aside his Cremona and his patience together, rushed down stairs, and finding Mrs. Archer still standing in the passage, he opened upon her with a “pray Mrs. Archer, how dare you insult one of my pupils?” “Your pupils, puppy!” exclaimed Mrs. Archer; “I care no more for your pupils, as you call them, than I do for you—and you may put that in your pipe and smoke it!” Now, Mr. Bertram does not smoke—indeed it would be very unbecoming in any dancing master so to do, and therefore, he told Mrs. Archer she was “a scandalous creature.” This made the matter worse; for, though Mrs. Archer did not much mind the epithet “scandalous,” she had a particular objection to being called a creature, and therefore she told Mr. Bertram she was no more a creature than himself.

2 cf. meaning and origin of ‘to cut a caper’

The phrase is used punningly in the following paragraph 3 published in The Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury (Stamford, Lincolnshire, England) of Friday 7th January 1825:

Smoking.—“What harm is there in a pipe?” says young Puffwell.—“None that I know of,” replies his companion, “except that smoking induces drinking—drinking induces intoxication—intoxication induces the bile—bile induces jaundice—jaundice leads to dropsy—dropsy terminates in death. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”—The Economist.

3 This paragraph was frequently reprinted in Britain and the USA during the 19th century—for example in Treasury of Wisdom, Wit and Humor, Odd Comparisons and Proverbs (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen and Haffelfinger, 1878).

Another punning use of the phrase occurs in Bubbles—A Capital Song, published in Selections from Mr. Mathews’ Celebrated Memorandum Book 4 (London: J. Limbird, 1825):

Every thing turns to capital now,
Companies’ millions are strong,—
’Tis a capital fault you’ll allow,
And this is a capital song!
Of money we’ve billions, trebillions,
And of capitals—’gad! London town
Is a capital—boasts thirty millions!
No wonder it has such renown.
(Speaking) “What new schemes in the market to day; here’s a gentleman got five hundred thousand, and can’t tell for the life of him what to do with it.” “That’s a pity, send him to me, I’ll soon tell him what to do with it. There’s the London Smoke Company, for warming the North Pole by means of pipes.” “Ah that will end in smoke; so put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

4 Charles Mathews (1776-1835) was an English theatre manager and comic actor.


The phrase has been used as an advertising slogan for pipe tobacco. For example, the following image is from an advertisement for Lloyd’s Gold Lack, “the Englishman’s ideal tobacco”, manufactured by Richard Lloyd and Sons, London; the slogan was A good tip. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. Put this in your pipe and smoke it.—The advertisement was published in the Eastern Evening News (Norwich, Norfolk, England) of Saturday 20th May 1899:

Put this in your pipe and smoke it’ - Eastern Evening News (Norwich, Norfolk, England) - 20 May 1899

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