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It ain’t over till the fat lady sings

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings is an idiom that became popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. We’ll discuss what the phrase means, which fat lady it’s referring to, who coined the term and the similar idioms that preceded it ain’t over til the fat lady sings. We’ll also look at a few examples of the term used in sentences.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings means the outcome of a situation is not assured until the end, one cannot know what the outcome of a situation will be while the situation is still in progress. The fat lady referred to in the term is a metaphorical opera singer, similar to the character of Brünnhilde in the Wagner operas. It ain’t over til the fat lady sings is often used when discussing sports competitions, which is no surprise as the term was coined during a sports competition in 1976. During a basketball competition in Texas between the tied Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Texas A&M Aggies, the game announcer, Ralph Carpenter, stated “…the opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” This was reported the next day in the Dallas Morning News newspaper, and the idiom caught fire. As noted, the original phrase was the opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings, the word opera has for the most part been dropped. The term probably has its roots in the mid-1800s in the American South, in the idioms church ain’t out till the choir sings, and church ain’t out till the fat lady sings.


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Examples

A couple of days ago, after the Brewers completed a sweep of the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen, to paraphrase, said it isn’t over until the fat lady sings with respect to his team’s fleeting playoff chances. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

At 4.25am, journalists were told by Downing Street sources it was time to work on the assumption that leave was going to win, though they said the “show was not over till the fat lady sings”. (The Guardian)

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