May 03, 2007

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings

It was while watching a cartoon of a cat being tortured by the ever clever mouse, that I heard the cat say "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings " after he slid down the banisters and crashed into a heavy peice of furniture. The quotation/proverb which essentially means that one shouldn't assume the outcome of some activity until it has actually finished. There are many theories behind its origin. The most popular one attributes it origin to Dan Cook, a sports editor.

A report in the Washington Post (13 June 1978) had this version: "One day three years ago, Ralph Carpenter, who was then Texas Tech's sports information director, declared to the press box contingent in Austin. `The rodeo ain't over till the bull riders ride.' Stirred to that deep insight, San Antonio sports editor Dan Cook countered with, `The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings.' Two days before this, the Times had more precisely quoted Cook as coming up with his version the previous April after the basketball playoff game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Washington Bullets to illustrate that while the Spurs had won once, the series was not over yet. Bullets coach Dick Motta borrowed the phrase later during the Bullets' eventually successful championship drive, and it became widely known and was often mistakenly attributed to him."

Another lesser accepted theory is that this phrase originated from the fact that the last piece in most opera's is the fat lady singing an aria. There's usually a big scene with lots of people singing and sometimes moving about (a finale), in which the music may get pretty loud. Most people leave before this is finished, but the actually opera is said to be finished when the fat lady finishes her song . Hence the phrase.


This saying is often attributed to Yogi Berra, as he is the originator of the similar line "It ain't over until it's over."
In The Simpsons Season 1 Episode 2 Genius Bart, the Simpsons family goes to an opera. Homer asks when is this thing finish to which Bart replies, It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings. To which Homer points out that the fat lady is singing.



Moi said...

cool one. Suramya....u obsessed with the word "Fat"...haha!!!
Yankees keep saying "it in't over until it's over"..this is one of their fav. expressions, the others being
"U gotta do what u gotta do"...(hehe)
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" (yeah right!!!)

the pic reminds moi of helga (hagar the horrible's wife) while the second version reminds me of "dil chahta hai" opera scene.....:DDDD

suramya said...

I am making sure that tag doesn't stick to me!!!!!!!! my brother, who's been living in the USA for the past 10 years and is now completely americanised keeps saying "u gotta do what u gotta do", I keep telling him thats an absurb phrase :), somehow it didn't cut much ice with me :):), I love hagar :):), somehow preferred vikings to pirates anyday, their origin from iceland gave them a more exotic feel.

kp;) said...

and now it all makes sense to me...never did watching Independence Day when Will Smith hands over a cigar to Jeff Goldblum and says "not until the fat lady sings"..and yet again when they`re gonna be fried by the aliens and Jeff baffled says, "Forget the fat lady! You're obsessed with the fat lady! Drive us out of here!"

666 said...

very similar to 'theres many a slip between the cup and the lip' and yeah moi .. the DCH scene :-)

coming back to the phrase, i still dont think we have scratched deep enough. As i see it, there are definitely two parts to TOAOUTFLS.

First: the usage origin and eventual acceptance as a common phrase. this part has been completely and comprehensively outlined by suramya.

Second: the origin of the link between 'fat lady' and 'opera'. Why not fat man, tall lady? There has to be some expanation somewhere undocumented. There must have been one or more fat ladies finishing operas sometime in history...

I found something which is interesting .. reproducing an excerpt
"Often associated with Wagnerian opera, specifically Brunhilde's 'Fire Song,' in 'Die Walkure,' and the fact that Wagner may seem interminable to nonaficionados. Thus one's impatience would be relieved when 'the fat lady sings.' "

It would be awesome if someone actually meets some sopranos, contraltos and dig out the folk lore. What say:-)?

Moi said...

666, whats with 'there's many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip' ???? i don't know the origin of the phrase but love it totally...

and why a fat lady ?? maybe coz only a strongly built sporano wud have vocals like those that go so high just before the end.....but then the question comes why not a "fat man" instead??? so the obvious answer is, if it's "fat lady" in the phrase, the expression has to come from the other gender......
and the joke goes,
Some "low brows" (obviously men) are attending an opera. They aren't sure when to leave and one says..."I think it ain't over till the fat lady sings."

Moi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Radha said...

Oh I've been missing all these posts because of that sticky post!! Never realised there were these updates below (inspite of 666's warning abt the sticky post).