What happened was, I wrote a small essay on the usage “What happened was...”, opining that it was American and had been dragged into the mainstream by Elmore Leonard. Was I ever wrong (also, a side-trip into Cornish comedy).
First of all, my wife, a New Zealander somewhat younger than me, noted that this was common usage wherever she'd been as far back as she could remember. Also, she checked Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage and came up empty.
Secondly, correspondent Leigh Dodds tells me that well-known (I gather; I'd never heard of him) comedian Jethro (“The World's Funniest Cornishman”) opens all his yarns thusly, and thus Leigh hears this phrase echo in a Cornish accent. Jethro was born in 1948.
Speaking of Cornish, did you know that there used to be a separate Cornish language, which now lives on only in a few historical manuscripts? There you go.
And finally, by a weird coincidence some random RSS feed today pointed me at this gem, about the famous three-doors brainteaser and the experience of being publically, incontrovertibly, wrong.
Just speaking for myself, this won't be the last time.