jam tomorrow

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From Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1871), where Alice is offered “jam to-morrow and jam yesterday — but never jam to-day”. This is a pun on a mnemonic for the usage of iam in Latin (note i/j conflation in Latin spelling), which means “now”, but only in the future or past tense, not in the present (which is instead nunc).


jam tomorrow ‎(uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) Promised benefits that never arrive.
    • 1930, John Maynard Keynes, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”:
      The “purposive” man ... does not love his cat, but his cat’s kittens; nor, in truth, the kittens, but only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward forever to the end of cat-dom. For him jam is not jam unless it is a case of jam to-morrow and never jam to-day.
    • 1961, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (volume 17, number 8, October 1961)
      Yet they've proved that common men can show astonishing fortitude in chasing jam tomorrow.
    • 1978, Eileen M. Byrne, Women and education
      It always seems to be a problem to be dealt with when resources (later) permit. Jam tomorrow, as usual.