Why We Say ‘It’s Time to Get Out of Dodge!’
Sometimes the phrase refers to being time to ‘Get the Hell out of Dodge,’ but it’s a popular expression most people say without ever considering its origin.
Have you ever one had anyone tell you it’s time to “Get out of Dodge?” If so, you probably immediately recognized the meaning.
That meaning, of course, was that it was time to skedaddle, to move on, to leave.
I just overheard someone use the phrase at work the other day and everyone knew what he meant.
I began thinking, however, where’s this “Dodge” and what makes it so bad that people want to get out of there?
It turns out, the phrase has long-outlived the genre that brought it to life.
It started with the Western.
I must admit: I hate Westerns. I realize that’s a strong word and I’m sorry. I’ve never particularly enjoyed watching a Western, whether it was a movie or television show.
Somehow, they’re too predictable for me. The good guy’s going to win. The bad guy’s going to be shot. And the damsel in distress — or whoever is in distress — will join the good guy at the saloon by the end of the story.
It almost always works out that way.
I guess that’s not the worse thing that could happen. But it doesn’t exactly make me feel a lot of suspense somehow. Unlike science fiction, there were no gadgets or technological plot twists to save Westerns from their own mediocre scripts.
But it was in those scripts where the phrase about “getting out of Dodge” might be found.
Dodge referred to Dodge City, Kansas. Dodge City is a real place that stands out in pop culture as a key part of the Wild West. It had more famous (and infamous) gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West. Among the names you might recognize are lawmen Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp and gunfighter Doc Holliday.
Fiction imitated art as Dodge City wound up in various Western productions. Dodge City was the setting for television’s longest-running Western, Gunsmoke. The show, which featured James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon, left the air after 20 seasons in 1975. I was five years old. By then, most of the Western genre had played itself out.
But when there was a shootout about to happen or some new villain headed into town, the good townsfolk may well have said to themselves, “It’s time to get out of Dodge!”
Though it’s hard to find a new Western (although there are plenty of old TV Westerns being played in daytime on cable), the phrase still remains a part of Americana.