‘girls are like streetcars, or buses’: meaning and history

The misogynist American-English phrase girls—or womenare like streetcars—or buses: there’ll be another one right along, and its numerous variants, mean there will be many more romantic opportunities in the future. They are used in particular to console men disappointed in love.
—Synonyms: there are plenty more fish in the sea, and its variants.

 

EARLY OCCURRENCES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

 

1-: From an article about Miss Angela McCall, “one of the most charming actresses on the stage”, published in the Daily Concord Standard (Concord, North Carolina) of Tuesday 16th October 1900—it is interesting that the speaker, a woman, appropriates the misogynist phrase:

Rumor has it that Miss McCall is going to embark upon the matrimonial sea; but upon being asked if this was her intention, her reply was, “Tammany’s candidate for Congress, John Sprunt Hill from the twelfth district of New York, said before he was married that girls were like street cars, if you missed one you could take another, and I am going to take the last car.”

2-: From the Steuben Republican (Angola, Indiana) of Wednesday 2nd March 1904:

No, —–don’t worry over your loss. Girls are like street cars; if you lose one another will be along in twenty minutes.

3-: From the column Just We Three, by Bettye Brown, published in the Evansville Journal-News (Evansville, Indiana) of Friday 12th May 1911:

Women are like street cars because when a man misses one, there’s always another. Yes, the women are like street cars in another way also. Ever notice that it’s the men who run after the cars?

4-: From the column Local and Otherwise, in the Hardin County Independent (Elizabethtown, Illinois) of Thursday 11th April 1912:

Women are like street cars, an other one will be along in a minute. So buy your clothing from Geo A. Wall and look like a live one.

5-: From The Danville Messenger (Danville, Kentucky) of Friday 3rd May 1912:

Uncle Joe Withers says, “If you don’t get the girl you want not to worry about it, because girls are like street cars, and there will be another one along in a minute.”

6-: From the “Cupid Commandment” submitted by a reader, published in The Seattle Star (Seattle, Washington) of Wednesday 18th September 1912:

F. C. Cahoon, Hotel Washington Annex: “Thou shalt not run after a girl—for, like a street car, there is always another coming.”

7-: From the column The Bystander, in The Sulphur Democrat (Sulphur, Oklahoma) of Thursday 29th April 1915:

Women are just like street cars there will be another one along in a minute.

The following illustration is from an advertisement for S & S Sales & Service, published in The Payson Chronicle (Payson, Utah) of Friday 7th March 1947:

DONT WORRY IF YOUR GIRL DROPS YOU – WOMEN ARE LIKE STREET-CARS – THERE WILL BE ANOTHER ONE ALONG IN A FEW MINUTES

'women are like streetcars' - The Payson Chronicle (Payson, Utah) - 7 March 1947

 

In later American-English usage—because streetcars were becoming obsolescent?—the tendency has apparently been to substitute the word buses for streetcars. The earliest occurrence that I have found is from the column Tom Siler Says, in The Knoxville New-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee) of Wednesday 25th August 1948:

OVERHEARD ON GAY STREET: “Women are just like buses. You can grab one on any corner.”

 

IN BRITISH ENGLISH

 

In British English, only the word buses has been used. For example, The Hendon Times and Guardian (London, England) of Friday 9th December 1932 published an account of the twenty-seventh annual dinner of the Hendon and Cricklewood Rifle Club—dinner during which the president, Mr. J. Hall, recalled

the advice given by a father to a young man who had been jilted. That advice was: “Don’t worry: women are like buses, another will be along in a few minutes.”

On Thursday 31st March 1988, the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) published this interesting article:

Women’s anger at judge’s bus jibe

A judge who said women are like buses drove the fairer sex of Liverpool wild today.
Judge Frederick Beezley told a drunken lout who smashed up his ex-girlfriend’s bedroom: “Ladies are like buses—there will be another one coming along.”
[…]
The judge was in the dock today as Liverpool women hit back.
[…]
Liverpool comedienne Faith Brown said: “The booze might make men sick but they would be a lot sicker without women.”
She said: “Men who treat women like buses belong in the zoo – and judges with views like that should not even be trusted to be their keepers!”
“The judge describes us as being like buses and there might be another one along in a few minutes – but they don’t always stop!”
[…]
Manager of Relate, marriage guidance in Liverpool, Christine Taby, said: “I am very saddened that a judge should make such a statement. It is a poor reflection of his view of society that he thinks women are just a vehicle for men to pick up as they come along.”
“It would be even worse if men were to take him at his word. Relationships need to be built up, not to be taken casually in the knowldge [sic] that there might be another one round the corner.”