A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 19, 2015
“That’s all she wrote”

"That’s all she wrote” means “that’s it,” “that’s the end,” “nothing more to say.” The origin of the saying is unknown. It has been thought that this was in regard to a “Dear John” letter, when a woman breaks up with a man (possibly named “John").

“That’s all she wrote and it’s final, the attorney general says in language much more eloquent and technical” was printed in the Brownsville (TX) Herald on June 16, 1935. “That’s All She Wrote” was the title of a 1942 song by Ernest Tubb (1914-1984).

“This was all she wrote” was the last line of a musical puzzle that has been cited in print since at least 1911. This puzzle is possibly the origin of the saying.

[This entry includes research from Michael Quinion of World Wide Words and Bonnie Taylor-Blake of the American Dialect Society.]


Wiktionary: that’s all she wrote
Etymology
Origins Unknown; circa 1940s; thought to be a reference to Dear John letters. Ernest Tubb recorded a song entitled That’s All She Wrote (sheet music published in 1942).
Phrase
that’s all she wrote

1. (idiomatic, US) Indicating an abrupt termination of a project, or of one’s hopes or plans.

25 October 1911, Washington (DC) Herald, pg. 8, col. 4:
A Musical Contest.
Hostess—Perhaps this will answer the correspondent who requested a game suitable for a musical club. I found it in a magazine and gladly pass it on:
(...)
“We’re married.” This was all she wrote.
Key—Time, hold, softly, key, beat, rhapsody, serenade, sharp, staff, flat, stop, rest, space, tie, tied, chord, note.

Newspapers.com
29 October 1911, The Daily Graphiuc (Pine Bluff, AK(, pg. 7, col. 1:
A ‘Musical’ Contest.
Perhaps this will answer the correspondent who requested a game suitable for a musical club. I found it in a magazine and gladly pass it on:
(...)
“We’re married.” This was all she wrote.
Key—Time, hold, softly, key, beat, rhapsody, serenade, sharp, staff, flat, stop, rest, space, tie, tied, chord, note.

Newspapers.com
2 November 1911, Cass County Leader (Cottonwood Falls, KS), pg. 6, col. 1:
A Musical Contest.
Perhaps this will answer the correspondent who requested a game suitable for a musical club. I found it in a magazine and gladly pass it on:
(...)
“We’re married.” This was all she wrote.
Key—Time, hold, softly, key, beat, rhapsody, serenade, sharp, staff, flat, stop, rest, space, tie, tied, chord, note.

Newspapers.com
6 December 1912, The Brown County World (Hiawatha, KS), pg. 10, cols. 2-3:
The following game was entered into with zest by all. Blanks were to be filled in with musical terms and a finished copy follows:
(...)
Next day she sent her pa a note, “We’re married,” this was all she wrote.

Newspapers.com
23 October 1930, The Booster (Pittsburg, KS), pg. 2, col. 3:
BRAIN TEASERS.
Are you musically inclined? Whether you are or not this should prove interesting. Fill in the blank spaces with a music sign.
(...)
“We’re married,” This was all she wrote.
(Answer on page 3)
Newspapers.com
Pg. 3, col. 2:
KEY TO BRAIN TEASERS
Time.
Hold.
Softly.
Key.
Beat.
Song.
Serenade.
Sharp.
Stick.
Flat.
Stop.
Rest.
Space.
Tie.
Chord.
Note.

Newspapers.com
16 June 1935, Brownsville (TX) Herald, “In Our Valley” by Ralph L. Buell, pg. 1, col. 1:
MATTER OF ADJUSTMENT OF valuations for years past is also under discussion in many counties.

In these counties it is proposed that the commissioners’ court by order cut down the valuations on which taxes now delinquent are based.

The office of the attorney general of Texas has ruled on the matter, and its ruling is that once the tax rolls are made up and approved by the commissioners’ court sitting as a board of equalization, the matter is ended.

No power except that of the legislature can change the rolls.

The assessor-collectors do not have the power, the commissioners’courts do not have the power.

That’s all she wrote and it’s final, the attorney general says in language much more eloquent and technical.

26 November 1937, Monahans (TX) News, “That’s All She Wrote,” pg. 2:
“That’s all she wrote—“

District 7-B swings into its final week of play this week with the declarations of sportswriters, coaches and others made before the season opened having withstood the ravages of nine weeks of play.

3 May 1940, Brownsville (TX) Herald, \ “Bears Win Second Straight Game From Bulldogs; Teams Play Again Friday at M’Allen; Both Clubs Go On Big Batting Spree,” pg. 5:
The Bears led throughout the game, running up nine runs in the first three innings.  The Bulldogs threatened in the sixth with a six-run rally, but that was all she wrote. The Bruins topped things off with another run in the sixth.

24 April 1941, Odessa (TX) American, “From Where We Sit ... “ by Curtis Rogers, pg. 2:
In the early day drilling of the upper or northern Pecos County tests cable tools were used exclusively, and when the tools ran into the inevitable ocean of sulfur water at around 2,300 feet—well, that “was about all she wrote”—the cable tool outfits just were not hooked up to handle the big water and shallow gas.

23 December 1941, Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, TX), “Henry Picard Wins Valley Open with Courageous Comeback,” pg. 7:
On the 68th Harrison pulled even with Picard again with an approach that left him an easy birdie putt while Picard and Demaret snagged pars.

But that was “all she wrote.”

Harrison’s rally fell apart on the next hole when his tee shot was short and in a grass trap on the par three 69th.

OCLC WorldCat record
That’s All She Wrote
Author: Ernest Tubb; Texas Troubadours; Jack Drake
Publisher: Bullet [19--]
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm : No Linguistic Content

OCLC WorldCat record
Ernest Tubb song folio of sensational successes : no. 2.
Author: Ernest Tubb
Publisher: Portland, Ore. : American Music, ©1942.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English
Contents:
That’s all she wrote --

The Portal to Texas History
28 February 1942, The Collegian (Brownwood, TX), “Inquiring Reporter” by Mary Elizabeth Everitt, pg. 2, col. 4:
Choe Wetzel: (Censored) That’s all she wrote.

OCLC WorldCat record
Pencil broke (and that’s all she wrote)
Author: Lionel Hampton; Gladys Hampton; Curley Hamner; Lionel Hampton Orchestra.
Publisher: New York City : Decca, [1946]
Series: Decca personality series.
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm : English

OCLC WorldCat record
‘That’s All She Wrote’
Author: Morris Finder
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: American Speech, v32 n3 (19571001): 238-239
Database: JSTOR Language & Literature Collection

YouTube
Ernest Tubb That’s All She Wrote
Gary Martin
Published on Dec 6, 2012
The Texas Troubadour, Ernest Tubb, with his 1942 classic That’s All She Wrote.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Monday, October 19, 2015 • Permalink