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  #1  
Old 30 May 2008, 08:56 PM
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Icon106 "It's not over until the fat lady sinks"

Comment: Recently both of my city's major newspapers have printed little fluff
articles saying that the term "It isn't over 'til the fat lady sings", is
actually a corruption of "It isn't over 'til the fat lady SINKS",
purpotedly a reference to the 8-ball in a game of pool. The closest I kind
find to any sort of substantiation for this is the below:

"And further to our Monday items about the origins of "the fat lady
sings", reader Ross Chester tells us his grandfather spent time in the US
in the 1930-40s and can recall him saying that the term originated in pool
halls during the depression years. According to Chester, the black ball
was known as "the fat lady" (because the No. 8 on it looked like two fat
ladies) and the original saying was that the game "ain't over till the fat
lady sinks". Over time, the "sinks" eventually became "sings"."

I tend not to believe it, but I wouldn't mind knowing it for sure.
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  #2  
Old 30 May 2008, 08:59 PM
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Local sports reporting icon Dan Cook came up with this phrase back in the 70's.

Link here:

http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_243b.html
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  #3  
Old 30 May 2008, 09:00 PM
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I thought that adipose tissue actually was more bouyant than muscle or bone...some nice plump curves makes you less likely to sink.
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  #4  
Old 30 May 2008, 09:13 PM
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It's comforting to know that even in the 70's, people got suicidial over the Spurs. At least we have evidence that sports angst is part of our city's heritage.
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  #5  
Old 30 May 2008, 09:35 PM
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Here is an article showing that the phrase is older than Dan Cook's use of it.

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ita1.htm

I rather like the church reference as a possibility. Many country church services in the South were interminable in years gone by. There was no 'script' so unlike opera you could not be sure when the service would be over. I can imagine bored kids bothering their father until he whispers 'church ain't over til the fat lady sings.' This also has the advantage over the 'opera' origin that probably as many operas end with either a male or group song as with a woman singing, and the 'fat lady' will almost always have sung several times during the opera, so her singing would be no proof that the opera was over. But in a church service, you are more likely (in my experience) to have a woman singing an anthem after the sermon, and no music once the sermon has started until it is over.
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Old 30 May 2008, 10:29 PM
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Hogwash... I'm firmly of the opinion that the "Fat Lady" was Ernestine Schumann-Heink, the heroically-framed singer who was fabled in her time as a trencherman, and the origin of other traditions (or stereotypes) involving opera.

Silas
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Old 19 July 2012, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
According to Chester, the black ball was known as "the fat lady" (because the No. 8 on it looked like two fat ladies) and the original saying was that the game "ain't over till the fat lady sinks".
Why would the number 8 look like two fat ladies? Did pool sharks suffer from double vision back then?
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  #8  
Old 19 July 2012, 05:29 PM
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Because some people assume (wrongly) that all fat women are apple- or egg-shaped, and lack defined waistlines? ETA: But if they thought it looked like two fat ladies, why isn't the expression ". . . until the fat ladies sink"?
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  #9  
Old 19 July 2012, 06:04 PM
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Anyone that has played Bingo (or "Housey") could tell you that "2 fat ladies" is 88.
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  #10  
Old 19 July 2012, 06:43 PM
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I would think an 8 looks more like a snowman...

"It ain't over till the snowman sinks"

Especially since it's white on black.
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  #11  
Old 19 July 2012, 06:56 PM
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Gee, for a second there I thought Silas was posting again! I'm disappointed.
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  #12  
Old 19 July 2012, 08:32 PM
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Brad:

Me too. And I am also disappointed.

BW
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  #13  
Old 19 July 2012, 09:48 PM
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Me too. I guess TrishDaDish didn't realize she revived a 4-year old thread.
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  #14  
Old 19 July 2012, 10:19 PM
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Fully aware. I haven't been here for long in ages and was looking to see if a topic I wanted to discuss wasn't already here. (The topic being the origin of the phrase "Blackmail". I thought I posted it a few hours ago, but I may have screwed it up. I wasn't totally awake.)
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  #15  
Old 19 July 2012, 10:32 PM
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I seriously wish my books weren't still in storage. I have at least a couple which would surely list this. It must have been around since well before 1978 - it's a reference to Wagnerian opera, for goodness sake, and I can't believe that the first person to use it was a random US baseball commentator in the late 1970s, completely spontaneously and without any reference to anything else.

"It's not over till the fat lady sings" is the canonical form here. I would have assumed it originated on this side of the Atlantic, but perhaps not.

(eta) I know this might sound a bit arbitrary. I just don't think that a random comment by a US baseball commentator in the late 1970s would have managed to become a ubiquitous cultural reference in the UK so quickly (this has been a common expression for as long as I can remember, and I can remember the late 1970s) without anybody remembering where it came from.
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  #16  
Old 20 July 2012, 03:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
Gee, for a second there I thought Silas was posting again! I'm disappointed.
I was just about to post something similar in the "Little things that annoy you thread!" Hey, it's Silas! How have you... 2008? Aw, nuts.

(Although I haven't seen Trish around here for a while, either! Good to see you!)
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  #17  
Old 20 July 2012, 03:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
(eta) I know this might sound a bit arbitrary. I just don't think that a random comment by a US baseball commentator in the late 1970s would have managed to become a ubiquitous cultural reference in the UK so quickly (this has been a common expression for as long as I can remember, and I can remember the late 1970s) without anybody remembering where it came from.
FWIW, I don't believe that story for a minute either. I think the expression has been around much longer, and that it refers to opera.

I think the billiards theory doesn't really work because the usage doesn't sound right to me. You don't really talk about a billiard ball "sinking" intransitively. That is, the usual usage is: "she sinks the 8-ball"; or "the 8-ball was sunk on the last turn" (passive voice on that one). Not "the 8-ball sinks," or "the 8-ball sunk on the last turn." The phrasing of "until the 8-ball sinks" doesn't ring true to me. So if the OP story were true, I think the phrasing would be more likely to be "it isn't over until you sink the 8-ball" or "until the 8-ball is sunk."
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  #18  
Old 20 July 2012, 04:13 AM
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I vunder vat she iss sinking about?

Dropbear
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  #19  
Old 20 July 2012, 06:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrishDaDish View Post
Why would the number 8 look like two fat ladies?
Could it be that the 8 actually looks like a fat lady's breasts, but you coudn't print that in a family newspaper?
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  #20  
Old 20 July 2012, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
I seriously wish my books weren't still in storage. I have at least a couple which would surely list this. It must have been around since well before 1978 - it's a reference to Wagnerian opera, for goodness sake, and I can't believe that the first person to use it was a random US baseball commentator in the late 1970s, completely spontaneously and without any reference to anything else.
Brewer's gives the opera explanation, but doesn't have a date for it.
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