It ain’t over till (or until) the fat lady sings is a colloquialism. (I resemble that remark, Ok…I have a few extra pounds on my hips! but I am workin’ on it…see Maxine workout below!) 😉
It is not a politically correct term these days, as we shouldn’t be talking about one’s weight, but I was curious as to how this particular phrase came about.
It usually is used these days in regards to organized sporting events and you know how much I love sports 🙂 …so I have heard this statement over the years many, many times, from sports announcers advising that one should not presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress.
The history (according to wikipedia….***) is still up for grabs as to who said it first….
The “fat lady” is the valkyrie Brünnhilde, who is traditionally presented as a very buxom lady with horned helmet, spear and round shield (although Brünnhilde in fact wears awinged helmet). Her aria lasts almost twenty minutes and leads directly to the end of the opera.
So originally, or so it is thought…the phrase is generally understood to be referencing the stereotypically overweight sopranos of Grand Opera.***
However, most of the opera singers of late look pretty svelte to me! No “Brünnhilde‘s, ! 🙂
So how did the phrase translate from Opera to Sporting events? Or did it originate somewhere else?
I know you are fascinated by now and can’t wait to see the connection! 😉
Dan Cook made a closer stab with “the opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, in a televised basketball commentary in 1978. Cook was preceded however by US sports presenter Ralph Carpenter, in a broadcast, reported in The Dallas Morning News, March 1976:
Bill Morgan (Southwest Conference Information Director): “Hey, Ralph, this… is going to be a tight one after all.”
Ralph Carpenter (Texas Tech Sports Information Director): “Right. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”***
Another US sporting theory is that the lady was the singer Kate Smith, who was best known for her renditions of “God Bless America”.
“The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team played Kate Smith’s recording of the song before a game in December 1969 and when the team won! Smith later sang live at Flyer’s games and they had a long run of good results in games where the song was used.”
“Sadly, Ms. Smith sang before games, not at the end. If the phrase were “It ain’t started until the fat lady sings”, her claim would have some validity.”***
Printed examples of the expression haven’t been found that date from before 1976….however, there are numerous residents of the southern states of the USA who claim to have known the phrase throughout their lives!
As far back as the early 20th century. “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings the blues” and “Church ain’t out till the fat lady sings” are colloquial versions that have been reported; the second example was listed in Southern Words and Sayings, by Fabia Rue and Charles Rayford Smith in 1976.***
Carpenter’s and Cook’s Sports broadcasts did popularize the expression, which became commonplace in the late 1970’s, but it appears that we are more likely to have found the first of the mysterious rotund ladies in a church in the Deep South than on the opera stage or in a sports stadium.
So I tell you all that, to tell you this …in regards to the Kansas Jayhawk College Basketball team….It ain’t over till the fat lady sings….and believe me, I will be singing all through the NCAA Tournament which starts this week-end! 😉
Rock Chalk Jayhawk! 🙂
Have a great Tuesday!
*** All quotes were from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings and http://en.wikipedia.org and Southern Words and Sayings by Fabia Rue and Charles Rayford Smith