"Move out of Missouri"

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Here I am in the middle of Missouri, Macon, to be exact (not precisely the geographical center, but not very far from it either, and certainly not near the edges of the state), and I still don't know the origins of this authentic Doggyism:  "Move out of Missouri!"

As I explained in "How to pronounce the surname 'Mair' and other Doggie talk" (2/17/22),

My basketball coach at Dartmouth was a very colorful character known as "Doggie Julian" (1901-1967).  Doggie was born in Reading, Pennsylvania and, in his 66 years of life, held an incredible number of positions as professional athlete and coach (football, basketball, and baseball) at one high school, many colleges, and one professional sports team.  He coached the legendary Bob Cousy (b. 1928) at Holy Cross and with the Boston Celtics.  It's difficult for me to imagine how he could arrange and sign for so many jobs, let alone move to such a large number of locations and coach thousands of games, but he had a steel will and dogged tenacity.

One of Doggie's favorite expressions was "Move out of Missouri".  I instinctively knew what he meant by that, and so did all of my teammates:  "all right, youse guys, get a move on; get a hustle!"  Although I've puzzled over the derivation of "Move out of Missouri" my whole life since I was twenty, I've never figured it out.

I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that Missouri is the "'Show-Me' state", nor that it is near the middle of the United States (before the addition of Alaska and Hawai'i)*.  Maybe, just maybe, it was something Doggie picked up in the sports world from all of his endless travels as a player and coach, or some prejudice that northeastern ethnic communities had about the "Mother of the West", the "Cave State" as a backwater.


*The geographic center of the contiguous forty-eight states (plus the District of Columbia) is at 39.8355 N, 99.0909 W. This location in Kansas is 5.3 miles from Agra and 5.5 miles from Kensington, at the intersection of East 1300 Road and East Mohawk Road.Apr 25, 2015. (source, quoting Roger Peterson of the University of Buffalo)


Perhaps "Move out of Missouri" will forever remain one of life's unfathomable mysteries.  Something to ponder as a provocative puzzle if my brain ever gets tired and has nothing else to think about for the moment.

"Move out of Missouri!"


Having passed through storied Hannibal on the western bank of the Mississippi and noticed some sites commemorating Mark Twain, I'm now reflecting that America's greatest humorist would surely have known how to deal with my Missouri conundrum.

Selected readings


  1. Cervantes said,

    May 6, 2023 @ 8:23 am

    Indeed. Mark Twain was much better suited to the cultured milieu of Hartford, CT than the rusticism of Hannibal. Makes sense to me.

  2. Stephen Goranson said,

    May 6, 2023 @ 11:31 am

    Possibly from an attested wordplay: misery, Missouri.

  3. Haun Saussy said,

    May 6, 2023 @ 12:14 pm

    Maybe something to do with the race of the Sooners to get across the Oklahoma line and grab land?

  4. david said,

    May 6, 2023 @ 1:41 pm

    Probably a reference to westward migration on the Oregon Trail out of Independence, MO.

  5. Terry Hunt said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 5:32 am

    Being a Brit who has never before heard or read the expression, initially it conveyed nothing to me. Had I encountered it in prose and unexplained, I would probably have reasoned along the following lines: "Missouri is central and rural, so people choosing to remain living there might be considered unambitious. The phrase might therefore be an exhortation to try harder."
    Of course, idiomatic expressions are rarely amenable to logic or analysis, because they emerge organically in a particular cultural milieu.

  6. Cervantes said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 10:58 am

    If Mississippi gives Missouri her New Jersey, what will Delaware?

  7. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 12:06 pm

    @Cervantes — Alaska!

    (Sounds like “I’ll ask ‘er”.)

  8. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 12:09 pm

    And @cervantes — thank you. That was one of my dad’s favorite jokes. Brought back happy memories. (Dad was born in Jersey City in 1919. He’s been gone 24 years now & I miss him terribly.)

  9. Cervantes said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 12:45 pm

    Michele — Inuit!

  10. david said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 7:25 pm

    my Dad, b. 1912 in Brooklyn, would answer “Idaho, Alaska”.

  11. KeithB said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 7:20 am

    There was an old song full of these with all the states. I only remember a few, one was "New Brass Key" and "What did Delaware?" (Obviously).

    The structure of the song was "What did Delaware, boys, what did Delaware" "She wore a ???, boys, she wore a ???".

  12. Arnold Baldwin said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 9:29 am

    “Delaware” by Perry Como is one of my favourite novelty songs. Written by Irving Gordon, it was released in late1959.

  13. KeithB said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 3:38 pm

    I finally remembered a bit more:
    How did Wisconsin? She stole a Nebraska.

  14. John Swindle said,

    May 9, 2023 @ 8:17 pm

    If it's really about Missouri it could refer to Joseph Smith and the Mormons being driven out at the end of 1838. Seems unlikely though. Maybe Missouri's in the middle and the coach was yelling at the team not to be middling.

  15. Rodger C said,

    May 15, 2023 @ 5:45 pm

    Too bad that Arkansas, boys, and so did Tennessee.

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