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The meaning and origin of the expression: A good man is hard to find

A good man is hard to find

What's the meaning of the phrase 'A good man is hard to find'?

A modern-day proverb, bemoaning the difficulty of finding a suitable male partner.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A good man is hard to find'?

This phrase was coined by Eddie Green, as the title of his song A Good Man Is Hard To Find. This was composed in 1918 and first offered for sale as a piano roll in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on 12th December that year (just in time for Christmas - a bargain at 90 cents):

A good man is hard to find
You always get the other kind
Just when you think that he is your pal
You look for him and find him fooling 'round some other gal
Then you rave, you even crave
To see him laying in his grave
So, if your man is nice, take my advice and hug him in the morning, kiss him ev'ry night,
Give him plenty lovin', treat him right
For a good man nowadays is hard to find, a good man nowadays is hard to find.

A similar though more general outlook was expressed in the Bible, Micah 7:2 (King James Version):

The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.

We don't know if Eddie Green was an Old Testament scholar, but it seems unlikely that he got the line from Micah.

A good man is hard to findThe best-known version of the song was recorded by Sophie Tucker, who adopted it as a signature tune. She was a little more charitable in her delivery of the lyric and sang the second line as "You may get the other kind".

Sophie Tucker was born Sophie Kalish; she changed her name and adopted Tucker as a stage name following a brief marriage to Louis Tuck. It is interesting to speculate whether she was influenced to use Tucker by the style of dress she often wore on stage - see best bib and tucker.

In the good man/good woman stakes, men got in a pre-emptive strike in the 17th century. Abraham Darcie's work The originall of idolatries, or the birth of heresies, 1624, includes this opinion:

"There is nothing more hard to find in this world than a good woman, a good Mule, and a good Goat, being three vnhappie beasts."

More recently, and in what must be one of the most convoluted titles ever to grace a book-stand, we have Jo Lynne Pool's 1995 book title - A Good Man Is Hard To Find Unless You Ask God To Be Head Of Your Search Committee.

See also - a hard man is good to find.

See also: the List of Proverbs.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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