before you could say Jack Robinson

before you could say Jack Robinson

OLD-FASHIONED
COMMON If you say that something happened before you could say Jack Robinson, you mean it happened very suddenly and quickly. The pair of them were out of the door and down the steps before you could say Jack Robinson. Note: People sometimes change Jack Robinson to a word or expression that relates to the subject they are talking about. She was on the phone to New York before you could say long-distance. Note: The identity of Jack Robinson is unknown and the name might have become popular because both elements were once extremely common. The phrase appears in the novel `Evelina' (1778) by Fanny Burney: `I'll do it as soon as say Jack Robinson'.
See also: before, could, jack, Robinson, say