My grandmother, who brought up me and my sister from her mid-60s, had many peculiar expressions, some dating from her own childhood in Victorian England, and some from a nautical background. Both her husband and her brother were sailors. Where others might say, “By gosh!” or “Not on our life!” she would say “By the rock you perished on!” She might have been misquoting the seafarers’ threat, “That’ll be the rock you’ll perish on.”
She would often say, “It’s early doors yet,” when she meant to indicate we were early, and we would patiently correct her to “It’s early days yet.” We thought she had garbled the saying and was simply getting it wrong.
I was an adult in my late 30s when I chanced upon the Garrick Arms, near to the Garrick Theatre in Garrick Street. The pub’s walls were decorated with playbills from old theatre performances. On one it said, “Doors open 7.00 pm, early doors 6.30 pm.” Apparently, theatres would often open their doors early for a small extra charge, maybe 6d, for those wanting to secure a better seat. The first recorded use was in 1883, a year after my grandmother was born. She was not as daft as we’d thought.