Green’s Dictionary of Slang

does a bear shit in the woods? Is the pope (a) Catholic? phr.

also do beavers piss on flat rocks? does a bird have wings? does a chicken have lips? do I know my grandmother? do sheep wear sweaters? has a dog a nose? is the pope a guinea/polack?
[see Maledicta I:1 (Summer 1977) pp.77–82 for discussion of these ‘sarcastic interrogative affirmatives and negatives’]

(orig. US) a rhetorical phr. of which the implication is, ‘Don’t ask me stupid questions. Of course... .’ The phr. is also found reversed, ‘Does the pope shit in the woods? Is a bear a Catholic?’; note ad hoc vars. also included below, e.g. cit. 1914 (cf. can a duck swim? under duck n.1 ).

[[US]J.F. Cooper Pilot (1824) II 167: ‘Could you find the place where you put the marines in ambush, Captain Manual?’ ‘Has a dog a nose! and can he follow a clean scent!’ exclaimed the marine].
[[UK]G.A. Sala Quite Alone III 102: ‘Tom Tuttleshell will be one of us. You know Tom?’ ‘Do I know my grandmother? [...] Monsieur Tuttleshell and I are friends – business friends – of some standing.’].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 15 Apr. 4/8: Would a duck swim? Would the wild ass [...] go for a feed of thistles?
[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 92: Think she’ll ’old to it? Will a nigger ’old to a chicken?
[US]M. Glass Potash and Perlmutter 28: ‘D’ye suppose Grossman would take it?’ ‘Would a cat eat liver?’.
[US]C.S. Montanye ‘The Dizzy Dumb-Bell’ in Top Notch 1 Aug. [Internet] Do I still think about her? [...] Do canaries like seeds?
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Peacock Valhalla 14: ‘Are there whorehouses in Japan?’ [...] ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’.
[US]D. Ward Day of Absence in Black Drama 206: announcer: Federal? clan: Kin a blind man see?! announcer: The Court? clan: Is a pig clean?! announcer: Clergy? clan: Do a polecat stink?!
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 331: ‘Would you feel better if I switched cells with you some night and let you get some reading?’ ‘They got cows in Texas?’.
[Ire]C. Brown Down All the Days 94: ‘Would you Mike?’ ‘Would a cat drink milk?’.
[US]G.V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) 155: ‘Is it going to be hot?’ ‘Does a bear shit in the woods?’.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 40: ‘You know McGovern’s?’ Crotty said. A chance to recover for Bingo [...] ‘The Pope a ginney?’.
[US]Maledicta 1 (Summer) 77–8: Following are some specimens [of sarcastic interrogatives] [...] [26] Does a chicken have lips?
[US]R. Price Ladies’ Man (1985) 143: ‘You like chicken?’ ‘Hey, do beavers piss on flat rocks?’.
[US](con. WWII) T. Sanchez Hollywoodland (1981) 62: ‘Are you Tony Tamale?’ ‘Does Jell-o roll off a tit?’ [...] ‘Is a Chinaman’s asshole slanted?’.
[US]A. Maupin More Tales of the City (1984) 139: ‘You miss me, Bluegrass?’ ‘The Pope Catholic?’.
[US]S. King Christine 120: Would I trade it? Man, does a bear shit in the woods?
[US]D. Jenkins Life Its Ownself (1985) 38: ‘You serious?’ ‘Does the Pope shit in the woods?’.
Frank Zappa Thing-Fish [album] Do the pope shit in the woods?
[US]J. Ellroy Silent Terror (1990) 99: ‘You got a beer?’ I said. ‘Does a beer shit in the woods?’.
[UK]H.B. Gilmour Pretty in Pink 37: ‘No?’ Andy said. Jena didn’t blink. ‘Do sheep wear sweaters?’.
[US]Maledicta IX 93: Claudio A. contributed two sarcastic questions [...] used in Australia but not in the U.S.A.: Are the Kennedys gun-shy? and Does Rose Kennedy have a black dress?
[US](con. c.1967) J. Ferrandino Firefight 145: ‘Fluett wants you to burn shit tonight,’ he said to Amaro, ‘Are you holding?’ ‘Does a bird have wings?’.
[US]R. Campbell Alice in La-La Land (1999) 183: ‘You wearing cotton panties?’ ‘Is the pope a Polack?’.
[US]W.T. Vollmann You Bright and Risen Angels (1988) 51: Now things were rolling, that was as sure as bears shit in the woods.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Boys from Binjiwunyawunya 303: Would he like to come over [...] for a baked chicken dinner that night? Is the Pope a catholic?
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Phantom Blooper 203: Donlon says, grinning, ‘So did you ever meet the Phantom Blooper face to face?’ I say, ‘Does a teddy bear have cotton balls? Does Superman fly in his underwear?’.
[Aus]T. Winton Lockie Leonard, Legend (1998) 95: ‘Would you prefer a straight “no”?’ ‘Has a chicken got lips?’.
[US](con. 1960s) G. Washington Blood Brothers 11: ‘How about you, sir, are you having a nice time?’ asked the Prince. Cheese replied, still feeling good, ‘Does a bear shit in the woods?’ [Ibid.] 186: ‘Would I? Is the Pope a catholic? Is cock sucking fun?’ said Magic Pussy. [Ibid.] ‘Would I want to come? Is pig pussy pork?’ he said, laughing out loud.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 80: ‘Want to get high?’ he said. ‘Does a bear shit in the woods?’ I replied.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Travel 18 July 4: Is the Pope a Catholic?
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 22: Yew wantin a shot now then? Bill grins. — Do I shit in the woods?
[US]T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 36: ‘£100,000. Would you kill a priest for that Billy?’ Billy smiled. ‘Is the Pope a fuckin’ Catholic?’ he laughed.
[UK]J. Meades Fowler Family Business 75: I mean it’s like, y’know [...] Pope shits in the woods.
[Aus]L. Redhead Cherry Pie [ebook] ‘Coffee?’ ‘Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?’.
[Aus]P. Temple Truth 174: ‘Got replacements?’ said Villani. ‘Pope Catholic?’ said the offsider.