If you are familiar with hearing the phrase, “Exit, stage left!,” and phrases that end with the word “even,” then you may also be familiar with the phrase, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” This is because of the cartoon character Snagglepuss.
I’m used to the word “Murgatroyd” because my mom said that my sister’s godmother would call the restaurant “McDonald’s” “Murgatroyd’s.”
This phrase is strictly American in origin. The first reference of the phrase, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” comes from the 1944 film, Meet the People.
Yet, who was Murgatroyd? Was Mugatroyd related to Betsy, as in the phrase “Heavens to Betsy!” Was the person named Betsy Murgatroyd?
This is unknown. The last name Murgatroyd has a long history in English aristocracy.
The last name is recorded by Bill Murgatroyd. He wrote The Murgatroyds of Murgatroyd. In it, he states that a constable was appointed for the district of Warley in Yorkshire. The constable adopted the name Johanus de Mergateroyde. The name Johanus de Mergateroyde literally means “John of Moor Gate Royde.” The moor gate is the district leading to the Moor.
The name appears many times in the 1887 Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Ruddigore, because at least ten of the characters in that play have the last name Mergatroyd.
The makers of the movie Meet the People were well versed in opera and musical theater. This means they would have been familiar with Ruddigore and probably got the name from that opera.
It was only in the 1960s that the phrase, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was popularized and this is because of the cartoon character Snagglepuss who appeared in The Yogi Bear Show.
Thus, there is no certain origin of the phrase other than that it was pulled from a known surname.
Also, while the most commonly known spelling of the phrase is “Heavens to Murgatroyd!,” other spellings of Murgatroyd are accepted. These include Murgatroid, Mergatroyd, and Mergatroid.
An interesting fact slightly related to the phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” is that Daw Butler based the voice of Snagglepuss upon the voice of the Cowardly Lion played by Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz. If you can’t imagine the two voice in your head, just watch the following videos.
Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion:
Snagglepuss (who also happens to be a lion) and yes he even says “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” in this cartoon:
Martin, G. (n.d.). Heavens to Murgatroyd. The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases | List of sayings | English sayings | Idiom definitions | Idiom examples | Idiom origins | List of idioms | Idiom dictionary | Meaning of idioms. Retrieved July 28, 2010, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/heavens-to-murgatroyd.html
YouTube – Judy Garland – Dorothy, Scarecrow & Tin Man Meets Cowardly Lion – The Wizard Of Oz, 1939 . (n.d.). YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved July 28, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98W7zg2ByKY
YouTube – Snagglepuss – season 1 – episode 1 – Major Operation . (n.d.). YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved July 28, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCT3jCs23Wc