I say, good show old man. Capital.

As I plowed through a writing project this weekend, I caught myself typing the stale phrase “that rarest of species”. I know, I really am that stuffy. Maybe it’s The Dante Club, maybe the Pride and Prejudice, but my English has become substantially more Queen’s recently, probably to the same degree as Johnny‘s has become Queens.

Either way, I struck the phrase, assuming I was unconsciously quoting something. Damned if I can figure out what though. I mere googling returns a litany of articles using the phrase, but no source. I tried Shakespeare and the KJV. Even a thorough bartleby session turned up nought. (See? Who uses ‘nought’?)

Anybody got anything on this? I mean, it must have come from somewhere. Three cheers to you if you find it. I’ll toast your name with a sherry in the parlor and draw up an epigram praising your alacrity.

3 thoughts on “I say, good show old man. Capital.

  1. Johnny

    Alex, you bastard. This search has eaten more of my spare time than you would possibly believe.

    However, I have arrived at a fair interpertation of the origins of the phrase, or, more accurately, the two phrases.

    “Old man” is affectionate slang/colloquialism (british) for a good/longtime friend, however, may also be used similarly to the American use of “Old man” to mean father, or daddy. It does not carry the negative connotations that “codger” or “doffer” or “gaffer”. It is regarded by and large in older more respectable folks as the American eqivalent of “buddy”, and in younger circles as “homey” or “daddy”(in the sense that Beers used to refer to me as ‘Big Daddy’)

    “Good show” on the other hand was a little more difficult to peg. Basically, after A LOT of looking( even in the Oxford Unabridged, on actual paper, no less) I have determined that it means simply that. Good show. Of course, what is read into it, and is written on, is that it is traditionally used after a particularly challenging, or important, or dangerous task is achieved successfully. Most likely it is a humorous attempt of reducing the importance of what was just done to that of juggling or reciting lines, while simultaneously acknowledging the skill of whoever performed.

    As for first use, bugger that for a game of toy soldiers. No luck at all. It’s as old as the dodo. Actually, probably older, as “Old man” goes back a long, long time. And “good show” even longer. So there is no clear cut answer there for you.

    Hope that was helpful, or elucidated for you.

    Reply
  2. Alex

    While I always appreciate being a vessel for your erudition, it’s “that rarest of species” I’m looking for a source on. Got any hot hookups? And you have access to the OED????

    Reply
  3. Johnny

    Oh yes. It is truly a vessel of almost complete knowledge.

    I only wish I had access to it online.

    As for the rarest of species…well, it is happy hunting, I suppose.

    Reply

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