Response last updated by satguru on Dec 24 2016.
Jul 28 2003, 7:35 AM
Answer has 3 votes
sequoianoir 20 year member
Answer has 3 votes.
I have also found a reference to a song.
Riley (originally spelt "Reilly") referred to the character that appeared in a song written by Pat Rooney in 1890. In the song Riley says if he ever became the President of the US then "New York" would "swim in wine when the White House and Capitol are mine." It tells you something about the kind of President he would have made, doesn't it?
However it is possible it was an American poet by the name of James Whitcomb Riley who gave rise to this idiom. Apparently, Riley (1849-1916) wrote sentimental poems about young boys, which were very popular during his time. The poems told the stories of young boys lazing around during the summer without a care in the world — wandering about barefoot, swimming in the river and fishing.