There’s a famous photo of the Fitzroy Tavern in London which is full of lovely details, including a sign that reads ‘WYBMADIITY’.
We got to know this photo quite well because for many years, it was blown up across one wall of the Fitzroy itself – very meta, a pub whose theme was its own history.
It was taken by Margaret Bourke-White in 1939 and you can see a nice high resolution version via Google’s Arts & Culture portal.
For years, we tried to work out what WYBMADIITY stood for, in the days before everyone had Google on their phones. We got as far as ‘Will you buy me a drink if I _____ you?’
What ITMA, Max Miller, Round the Horne naughtiness might that missing word suggest?
Then we left London, the pub got refurbished, and we forgot about this unresolved mystery.
It popped back into our heads as we read Eoghan Walsh’s piece about a Belgian café preserved as art, with its overwhelming collection of tat. The WYBMADIITY sign would fit right in.
And, of course, having let our brains stew on it for a decade or so, we immediately realised what it stood for: ‘Will you buy me a drink if I tell you?’
At this point, we also got the joke.
Imagine one dozy punter after another seeing that curious sign.
“I say, what does WYBMADIITY stand for?”
“Will you buy me a drink if I tell you?”
“Well, OK – what’ll you have?”
It was apparently a stock, standard gag in British pubs, American bars, Australia, South Africa… everywhere – and of a similar ripeness to ‘Please do not ask for credit because a smack in the mouth often offends’.
Another variant was apparently the more specific ‘Will you buy me a double if I tell you?’
One newspaper article from the 1940s connects it with the craze for acronyms such as SWALK (‘sealed with a loving kiss’) on correspondence between servicemen and their sweethearts but the earliest reference we can find is in a London restaurant review from 1935.
Which brings us to our blogging challenge for November 2020, or, rather, blogging challenges.
First, what’s something about beer or pubs that’s always puzzled you?
Now’s the time to find out, and write a quick blog post or Twitter thread sharing your newfound knowledge. Let us know and we’ll do our best to share whatever you write.
Or ask us and we’ll do it – we like answering questions.
Secondly, we’re going to dig deep into the world of pub tat. We’ve already explored pump clips, beer mats, coin stacks and bell pushes, but what about all that crap gathering dust on the back bar and useless shelves? The stuff that gives a pub texture.
What springs to mind when you think of pub tat, cheap gags and advertising junk?