Origin of Mr. Smarty Pants Knows

The column Mr. Smarty Pants Knows has appeared weekly in The Austin Chronicle since September 23, 1988 by Contributing Editor R.U. Steinberg, who has been with the paper since 1982. The logo was drawn by a talented Austin artist who wishes to remain nameless.

R.U. Steinberg

Mr. Smarty Pants

Origin of the phrase "Smarty Pants"

The origin of the term "Smarty Pants" derives from "smarty," which first surfaced in a California magazine in 1861--"Juvenile smarties are interesting even to a vagabond" was the name of the story. The term "smarty" was also used in Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain in 1876.

The first use of "smarty pants" seems to be in 1941 by B. Schulenberg in What makes Sammy Run? where he uses the phrase "one of those Vassar smartypants." The next reference is in 1953 by M. Dickens in No More Meadows, vi. 266 in the phrase, "He jumped right in with his slick talk...That smarty pants!" In 1967, N. Marsh in Death at Dolphin viii. 199: "Hawkins, Mr. Smartypants has a little chat.

Another evolution of the term was "smarty boots" used in a 1962 article in The London Times: "The phonyness of a smartiboots Ivy League undergraduate."