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Two months ago, I wrote definitively that Disney came up with the phrase “TTFN,” meaning, “Ta Ta For Now.”  But, as sometimes happens when I’m trying to be authoritative, I was 95% wrong.

The phrase “TTFN” does stand for “Ta Ta For Now,” and it is currently heard mostly from Tigger.  But it appeared in the media much earlier than that, in a WWII BBC radio show called “It’s That Man Again”, otherwise known as ITMA, that ran ten years from 1939 to 1949. Tommy Handley was the host of this weekly comedy show, featuring a stable of regular quirky characters and their catchphrases.

The catchphrase we’re here to learn about, “TTFN,” was part of a running joke related to the war; that, following the practice of the military, abbreviations were vigorously substituted for full words—the name of the show, ITMA, being a prime example.

The Times Online has a WW II retrospective article that says in part, “Listened to now, ITMA seems to be just a succession of feeble catchphrases. Listened to then, though, it was a succession of terrific catchphrases in a war fought with catchphrases,” and it was crazy popular, with up to forty percent of the British population tuning in.

I am told that it was Handley himself who said TTFN at the end of each episode, but I can’t find clear proof of that, and another source says it was spoken by Mrs. Mopp, the office char (cleaning lady), played by Dorothy Summers.

“TTFN” may have later have been helped to spread when it was adopted by BBC radio journalist and interviewer Jimmy Young to close his radio programme, though he himself disputes this—yet many others describe him using the phrase. Being 31 and Canadian, I can’t say one way or the other if this is true

Buy the uncommon “Very Best of ITMA” CD from sites in the U.S. or in the U.K.



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