‘you, too, can have a body like mine’: origin and early occurrences

The phrase you, too, can have a body like mine originated in magazine advertisements for the highly popular mail-order bodybuilding course created and marketed, in collaboration with Frederick Tilney then with Charles P. Roman, by the Italian-born U.S. bodybuilder Charles Atlas (Angelo Siciliano – 1892-1972).

For example, the following advertisement was published in Popular Mechanics Magazine (Chicago: H. H. Windsor, Jr., Editor and Publisher) of April 1934:

“97 lbs. of SKIN and BONES!”
– but now The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man…
By Charles Atlas

They thought it couldn’t be done—but look at me now! I used to be a skinny, scrawny weakling weighing only 97 pounds. Only half alive; too sickly for sports; afraid to put up my fists. THEN I discovered Dynamic Tension!—the amazing method that gave me the body which twice won the title, “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man.” And thousands of other fellows who have put my secret to work are today the envied, he-men LEADERS in any crowd!

Proof in 7 Days that You, too, can Have a Body Like Mine!

Now I actually guarantee to show you PROOF in just 7 DAYS that I can give you a body that men will respect and women admire. Let me make you a NEW MAN—with a body of might and muscle, afraid of nothing, ready for the good things and good times of life. I’ll put solid layers of rippling muscle on your back and shoulders. I can build out your chest to husky, he-man size and give your arms and legs handsome muscles of powerful strength. I’ll give you vigorous new health, too—banish pimples, blemishes, bad breath, poor digestion, etc.

Send For FREE BOOK

Mail the coupon now for my valuable illustrated book, “Everlasting Health and Strength,” filled with actual photos, vital body facts and full details of my “Proof in 7 Days” Dynamic Tension Guarantee. There’s no risk, no obligation. It’s FREE. Clip and send coupon TODAY to me personally: Charles Atlas, 133 East 23rd St., Dept. 8-D, New York City.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Charles Atlas, Dept. 8-D, 133 East 23rd St., New York City.
I want the proof that your system of Dynamic Tension will make a New Man of me—give me healthy, husky body and big muscle development. Send me your free book, “Everlasting Health and Strength.”
Name. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Address. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .State. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The following photograph and caption are from the advertisement for Charles Atlas’s mail-order bodybuilding course, published in Popular Mechanics Magazine (Chicago) of April 1934:

Charles Atlas - 'you, too, can have a body like mine' - Popular Mechanics Magazine (Chicago) - April 1934

A recent photograph of Charles Atlas, holder of the title “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man”—won in open competition in the only national and international contests held during the past 15 years.

All the earliest uses as a phrase of you, too, can have a body like mine that I have found occur in British-English publications.

Apparently, Charles Atlas’s bodybuilding course was advertised in Britain, since the you, too, can have a body like mine advertisements were mentioned for example in the account of the visit that an Evening Telegraph reporter paid to a new weightlifting and bodybuilding club in Coventry—account published in The Coventry Evening Telegraph (Coventry, Warwickshire, England) of Friday 12th April 1957:

Among the 30 men, I met last year’s “Mr. Coventry,” whose great deep chest and massive biceps made me feel like one of the seven-stone puny gentlemen in the “You, too, can have a body like mine” advertisements.

The English playwright John James Osborne (1929-1994) alluded to the bodybuilding course in Look Back in Anger (1956):

Jimmy. Do you think that some of this spiritual beefcake would make a man of me? Should I go in for this moral weight lifting and get myself some over-developed muscle? I was a liberal skinny weakling. I too was afraid to strip down to my soul, but now everyone looks at my superb physique in envy. I can perform any kind of press there is without betraying the least sign of passion or kindliness. […] Two years ago I couldn’t even lift my head – now I have more uplift than a film starlet.

The earliest uses as a phrase of you, too, can have a body like mine that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From the account that Gilbert Wilkinson and Victor Thompson wrote of the U.S. heavyweight boxer Joe Baksi’s sparring session at a gymnasium in London—account published in the Daily Herald (London, England) of Saturday 2nd November 1946:

Joe Baksi appeared through a doorway which was garlanded with boxing photographs, and we all sat down on wooden benches round a small ring.
Joe took off a blue dressing-gown, which bore on its back his name in large letters, just so that nobody would mistake him for Aldous Huxley.
He revealed that he is built rather like Bush House, only with larger shoulders. He flexed his muscles as if to say You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, and then Whitey Bimstein began to prepare him for sparring, using as much care as a mother might spend on powdering her baby after its bath.

2-: As the caption to the following cartoon, illustrating an article about Sunday sport, published in the Daily Herald (London, England) of Thursday 20th March 1947—this is an extract from the article:

Britain cannot afford large-scale sport in mid-week because it interferes with production. One solution would be the highly-controversial introduction of big football and other sporting spectacles on Sunday.

The cartoon depicts a worker as a weightlifter holding above his head weights that read bigger output, and saying to a visitor:

You, too, can have a body like mine.”

'you, too, can have a body like mine' - Daily Herald (London, England) - 20 March 1947

3-: As the title and the chorus of a song quoted by Peggy and Charles Graves in The Sketch-Book, published in The Sketch (London, England) of Wednesday 7th January 1948:

If we were invited for a birthday wish, we would plump for Bud Flanagan singing: “You, too, can have a Body like Mine”:
Is your breathing poor? Are your muscles weak?
Does your stomach sag? Do you lack technique?
There’s no need to be a clinging vine,
You, too, can have a body like mine.
Do the women swoon when you swell your chest?
Do you look your best in your undervest?
Take your place among the thin red line—
You, too, can have a body like mine.
One, two, three, four—now you have to loosen up your liver,
Inhale, exhale, till your ears are flapping and your kidneys quiver.
Are your spirits low? Do you tend to grouse?
Do they ever ask you—Are you man or mouse?
There’s no need to be a clinging vine,
You, too, can have a body like mine.

In its issue of Wednesday 4th February 1948, The Sketch specified:

The lyric of the song “You, too, can have a body like mine,” published in The Sketch-Book on January 7, 1948, was written by Roger Woddis. 1

1 Roger Woddis (1917-1993) was a British author.

4-: From this advertisement for the tax-free, mothproof and showerproof flannels manufactured by Hellawell Sportswear Ltd., 12 York Place, Leeds, published in The Manchester Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Friday 4th April 1952:

'you, too, can have a body like mine' - The Manchester Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) - 4 April 1952

MEN WHO WEAR HELLAWELL FLANNELS
The Schoolmaster
“Indeed no, Venables”

“I can assure you I have not come into money. I am still wholly dependent on the totally inadequate salary meted out by an ungrateful State to the custodians of its youth. The flannels? No, they’re not new. Far from it. In fact, as they’re completely impervious to the attack of moth (tinea pellionella to you), long imprisonment in lavender has not impaired their youthful qualities. But cheer up. You, too can have a body like mine. Believe it or not, these superior Hellawell flannels were bought the year before last out of income!”

5-: From New curves while you wait!, by Pat Taylor, published in The People (London, England) of Sunday 18th September 1955:

I got the urge to do something about my figure […] so I took the advice of a pal of mine who has her curves in all the right places.
She told me: “You, too, can have a body like mine, dear. Go and see my corsetière, Madame Dorit. She’s got a new technique.”

6-: From this advertisement, published in the Shepherds Bush Gazette (London, England) of Friday 5th October 1956:

'you too can have a body like mine' - advertisement for Austin - Shepherds Bush Gazette (London, England) - 5 October 1956

YOU TOO CAN HAVE A BODY LIKE MINE!
I AM AN AUSTIN A30 SALOON
WITH TWO DOORS–FOUR SEATS AND LOTS OF COMFORT
YOU CAN BUY ME FOR £570.0.0
TAXED–INSURED FOR ONE YEAR.
ALL READY TO DRIVE AWAY
OR £285.0.0 DEPOSIT and £3.2.0 weekly
WILL GIVE YOU
1957 STYLE MOTORING

An interesting figurative use of the phrase occurs in Mao’s hand on the helm, an unsigned article published in the Manchester Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Wednesday 17th December 1958:

It seems to be generally assumed now that Mr Mao Tse-tung 2 is not going to stand for re-election as Chairman of the Republic, but that he will retain his chairmanship of the party. […]
[…] The apostolic succession Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin is being continued with Mao. By this practice (whether or not it will eventually prove to be successful) he has established his claim to be the leading theoretician of communism in the world, and it is natural that he should want to devote more time to theoretical work, laying down the lines along which not only the existing Communist States but also […] countries as undeveloped as the old China can advance towards the Communist kingdom of peace where all antitheses are synthesised. “You, too, can have a body like mine,” he is telling Mr Khrushchev’s 3 and Mr Nehru’s 4 compatriots, and now he may want leisure to tell them how.

2 The Chinese statesman Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976) was chairman of the Communist Party of the Chinese People’s Republic from 1949 to 1976 and head of state from 1949 to 1959.
3 The Soviet statesman Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev (1894-1971) was Premier of the USSR from 1958 to 1964 and First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR from 1953 to 1964.
4 The Indian nationalist leader and statesman Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was the Prime Minister of India from 1947 until his death.