Sob sister and sob story

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The terms sob sister and sob story first appeared shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. We will examine the meanings of the expressions sob sister and sob story, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

The term sob sister was first used to mean a particular type of female journalist who wrote from the human interest angle, especially in a sentimental fashion.  The term sob sister has evolved to mean an actress who portrays especially sentimental characters, or a person who is interested in good works, particularly one who is impractical in that regard. The plural form is sob sisters. A story told by reporter Ishbel Ross explains the origin of the term sob sister. According to Ross, four female journalists covered the 1907 trial of Harry K. Thaw, accused of killing Stanford White: Dorothy Dix, Winifred Black, Nicola Greeley-Smith and Ada Patterson. Another male reporter spied the four sitting in the courtroom and gave them the nickname of the sob sisters.

The term sob story originally referred to the article written by a sob sister, an emotional, human interest story. Today sob story usually refers to a hard-luck tale someone tells in order to garner sympathy. The plural form is sob stories.


Termed “sob sisters,” Pulitzer employed Nellie Bly and Hearst had Dorothy Kilgallen doing sentimental jail cell interviews and covering sensationalistic courtroom trials. (The Chicago Tribune)

Snivelling, sob sister ‘Snowflakes’ fire off dumb questions when they’re out on the streets lamenting the election of Hillary Clinton-tagged “misogynist” presidents—and even dumber ones on primetime Fox News interviews. (The Canada Free Press)

The narrative is not riddled with the sermon of chastity, which might have turned it into a sob story. (The Hindu)

I would apologise for the excessively long anecdotes and make a joke about feeling as if I’m auditioning for the X-Factor with a sob story, but this is no sob story. (Trinity News)