Sunday, February 13, 2011

Who Was The Fat Lady and Was It Really Over When She Sang?

Fred Shapiro of The New York Times attempts to answer reader submitted questions about the origins of phrases. Brünnhilde's proportions may have helped perpetuate this crude statement that has become common jargon in our society, but one wouldn't necessarily think that it derived in the world of sports!

Question: Can you trace the origins of “It’s not over until the Fat Lady sings.”?

Answer: The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Ralph Carpenter, Quoted in Dallas Morning News, Mar. 10, 1976. Carpenter was sports information director at Texas Tech University when he uttered this line during a basketball game with Texas A&M. Sportscaster Dan Cook used the expression in a television broadcast, May 10, 1978, before a Washington Bullets – San Antonio Spurs playoff basketball game (Cook has usually been credited as the originator). ”The fat lady” was then picked up and popularized by Washington coach Dick Motta. However, a 1976 booklet, Southern Words and Sayings by Fabia Rue Smith and Charles Rayford Smith, includes the saying “Church ain’t out ’till the fat lady sings,” suggesting an ultimate origin in Southern proverbial lore. Ralph Keyes, Nice Guys Finish Seventh (1992), records the recollections of several Southerners remembering similar phrases used as early as the 1950s.”