"Just another day"

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Andrew Gelman sent a link to blog post (with a rather long title): "Just another day at the sausage factory . . . It’s just funny how regression discontinuity analyses routinely produce these ridiculous graphs and the authors and journals don’t even seem to notice", with the note "You might enjoy the statistics content in the main post, but I'm sending to you because of the phrase-origin discussion".

That discussion happened in a comment asking about the origins of the phrase "another day at the sausage factory", and Andrew's response was

I have no idea where the phrase comes from! I didn’t even know it was a phrase, at least I don’t think so. It derives from the saying that you don’t want to see sausage or legislation being made . . . ummm, let’s google *sausage legislation* . . . here’s Quote Investigator which is always my favorite source for this sort of thing. They cite Fred Shapiro who dug up the earliest known version: “The Daily Cleveland Herald, March 29, 1869, quoted lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe that ‘Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made,’ and this may be the true origin of the saying.”

As to the exact phrase, “Just another day at the sausage factory”: maybe I read it somewhere and it lodged in my unconscious? A quick google turns it up in various places, for example this news article by Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times. So my guess is that it’s just a natural formulation that has been independently coined many times, derived from the well known saying about sausage and legislation.

I don't have anything to add to Quote Investigator's story about sausages, but there's more to be said about "Just another day".

The word sequence "just another day" occurs 474 times in the billion-word COCA corpus, for a frequency of about 0.47 per million words. (As a point of comparison, the single word "discontinuity" occurs 684 times in the same dataset, and "regression discontinuity" occurs 22 times.)

And most instances of "just another day" are intended to a describe a routine situation or event, which is often (but not always) negatively evaluated. A few examples from COCA:

You have already seen, you've already been through the stress, and now, launch day is just another day.
When it comes to adventure, my confidence level is much higher than most. What is objectively over-the-top seems like just another day.
Today doesn't have to be just another day, so let yourself enjoy it and make it as unique as possible.
Yeah, just another day in the colorless world of corporate boredom.
And life goes on and so does the traffic. Just another day in hell.
[I]t seems that it is so common place for them to see death all around them all the time, or, a lot of the time it is, sadly, just another day.
But in the years since, Veterans Day has become, for some, just another day off or a day to hit the big sales at the mall.

Although the three-word sequence "just another day" has other possible interpretations, like "just another day until vacation!", there's definitely a "just another day" idiom for perhaps-tedious routine. The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms has

just another day at the office boring routine.

1997 Times Professional cricket has been reduced to just another day at the ‘office’.

So what's the history? A bit of poking around suggests that it's been Out There since at least the mid 19th century, and that the "at the office" part is not essential.

The earliest one I've found (from newspapers.com) occurs in a story by Mary Grosvenor, "Tommy Lost and Found", published in the Springville Journal & Herald, December 31 1886:

That passage suggests that the "boring routine" meaning was already routine by that time.

Another example comes from the Neenah Daily Times, March 31 1892:

The first example I found of "Just another day at the office" comes from the New York Daily News, July 21 1927:



14 Comments »

  1. Philip Taylor said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 10:09 am

    Would anyone really say "just another day until <Am.E>vacation&lt/> | <Br.E>my holiday&lt/> !" ? For me, this would have to be expressed as "just one more day until <Am.E>vacation&lt/> | <Br.E>my holiday&lt/> !".

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 10:11 am

    D@mn. JS Bin assured me it was fine, but as can be seen, four vital semi-colons were omitted. Sorry.

  3. Gregory Kusnick said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 11:16 am

    I don't think "just another day off" counts as an instance of "just another day". The whole point of a day off is that it's not just another day; it's a break from stultifying routine. The author of the Veterans Day quote is not trying to say that days off have become routine and boring, but that people have forgotten what that particular day is meant to signify.

  4. Terry K. said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 2:18 pm

    "Just another day until vacation" strikes me as odd too (responding to Philip Taylor's comment). I can't swear no one would say it, but for me it wouldn't work.

    [(myl) Maybe substitute this actual piece of dialogue from a novel?

    ]

  5. Batchman said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 2:21 pm

    And there's the Paul McCartney song from 1970, "Another Day" …

    https://genius.com/Paul-mccartney-another-day-lyrics

    Every day, she takes a morning bath, she wets her hair
    Wraps a towel around her as she's heading for the bedroom chair
    It's just another day

  6. AntC said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 2:29 pm

    Thanks @Batchman, The Beatles was the first that came to my mind.

    @Philip, I'm not sure I'd say "just another day 'til my holiday"; but I'm sure I'd understand somebody who put it that way. I wouldn't find it unusual or awkward.

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 3:11 pm

    I was reminded of the McCartney thing, but also of the 1972-released Kinks song "Here Comes Yet Another Day," even though "yet another day" usually has somewhat different valence from "just another day." Maybe the point is that the "yet another day" is inevitably going to turn into "just another day" by its end? It's the first song on an album described by wikipedia as thematically featuring "explorations of the trials of rock-star life and the monotony of touring," and the overall feel is "just another repetitive day at the office" if your "office" is a sequence of hotel rooms and performance venues where each blurs into the next.

    https://genius.com/The-kinks-here-comes-yet-another-day-lyrics

  8. JPL said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 6:18 pm

    One of the most prominent examples of the use of this phrase in pop music has got to be Phil Collins, "Another day in paradise". Expresses the contrast between the complacency of taking the quotidian, mundane comfort of one's daily life for granted with the empathy and engagement that is required when confronted with a fellow human for whom this very day is a crisis, for which you are in a position to make a difference one way or the other. "Making a difference" is the fulcrum of the contrast between the two senses expressed describing the one day. (Notice how in the pocket Collins's enunciation of the lyrics is in relation to the rhythms of the music.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt2mbGP6vFI

  9. JPL said,

    November 23, 2021 @ 10:59 pm

    Sorry for the residue of a revision in there: I think in the second not-quite-sentence (it's not PRO-drop; I didn't expect the phrase to go on so long) changing "between" to "of" would fix the coherence problem (in the meaning of the predicate phrase).

  10. Miles B said,

    November 24, 2021 @ 7:03 am

    Did anyone else think (on an initial glance at the article) that "sausage factory" was referring to a relentless process churning out the same thing again and again?

    At work, I sometimes talk about the sausage machine for some of our processes that stretch over several teams – so those of us at the end of the process don't get to see what's inside the sausage machine, just the product which we then have to deal with. (Insurance company financial reporting, so I'm talking about a non-physical product, involving running of computer models, passing of data etc).

    I suppose in there is a vague idea that I'm probably better off not knowing exactly what goes into making the sausage, but that's not my main thought.

  11. Philip Anderson said,

    November 24, 2021 @ 3:18 pm

    @Miles B
    That was my interpretation too. But I’m not familiar with the comparison between sausages and legislation.
    “Just another manic Monday” sprang to mind.

  12. Fantazi Giyim said,

    November 25, 2021 @ 8:12 am

    Sorry for the residue of a revision in there: I think in the second not-quite-sentence (it's not PRO-drop; I didn't expect the phrase to go on so long) changing "between" to "of" would fix the coherence problem (in the meaning of the predicate phrase).

  13. Karl Weber said,

    November 25, 2021 @ 9:56 am

    @JPL Sometimes my relatives in Hawaii will complain about routine local problems (incompetent government, infuriating traffic) by saying "Just another goddamned day in paradise."

  14. djw said,

    November 26, 2021 @ 12:43 pm

    Miles B., that was my thinking exactly. I'm 72, lifelong central Texan, and that's the way I've always heard it used. I'm sure "just another day" has always meant "routine," but I've always assumed somebody tagged on "at the sausage factory" because it sounds funnier/grosser than "at the office": "sausage" is a kind of funny-sounding word, but "at the sausage factory" also conjures up images of dead meat being ground to bits, which is a whole lot more visceral than "at the office" and a lot less funny than "at the candy factory" a la Lucille Ball.

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