Why keeping up with the Joneses?

9 07 2010

When you see your neighbour’s latest TV set (higher resolution, wider screen, brighter colour, thinner and trendier), you want one for yourself. So you decide to buy even a bigger one, just to show off that you can do the same, or even better than your neighbour.

That’s called “keeping up with the Joneses”.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a catchphrase in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbour as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

Since this is always not a smart reaction for someone who is financial savvy, why keeping up with the Joneses? In fact my question is not “why you want to keep up with your neighbours”. It is why “Joneses”? Why not “Tans”? Why not “Ramli” or “Muthus”? But “Joneses”!

The answer is available on the Internet.

This term is 20th century American. It originated with Arthur (Pop) Momand’s Keep Up With The Joneses comic strip in the New York Globe. The strip was first published in 1913 and became popular quite quickly. By September 1915, a cartoon film of the same name was touring US cinemas.

Keepin up with the Joneses Comic

The ‘Joneses’ in the cartoon weren’t based on anyone in particular, and they weren’t portrayed in the cartoon itself. Jones was a very common name and ‘the Joneses’ was merely a generic name for ‘the neighbours’.

Have you done anything just to impress your neighbour? Tell us what you’ve done to keep up with the Joneses.



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