An exchange on Facebook a few days ago, provoked by a 4/9/17 piece linking to 4/15/11 story “World’s languages traced back to single African mother tongue: scientists” on PRI (Public Radio International). Various annoyed responses, including, from Ben Zimmer:
No idea why this PRI piece has been making the rounds lately, but it’s about the old 2011 Science paper
On Facebook, everything old is new again.
— intending to use the boldfaced catchphrase (or cliché) to convey something like ‘fashions and trends are repeated or revived’. Then I wondered about the history of the expression, and found nothing useful in dictionaries of quotations, idioms, and clichés, at least for this wording used in this way. What I found were links to biblical quotations with different wording conveying rather different content; and then, from the 1970s on, a ton of examples of what was clearly recognized as a catchphrase / cliché, used much as I used it above.
As I note here every so often, I am not a lexicographer or a quotes investigator, and I don’t have the resources to pursue the history of expressions in their sociocultural context (though I do hang out with people who do these things, splendidly). So here I’m just setting the problem.