Close but no cigar

Posted by R. Berg on November 09, 2001

In Reply to: Close but no cigar posted by Marian on November 09, 2001

: "Close but no cigar." I think it means "Sorry, but your answer is wrong." But why a cigar? I'm wondering if cigars were carnival prizes at one time.

Yes, they were. For a right answer, the response is "Give that man a cigar."

I (in the U.S.) gather from reading that in the U.K. coconuts are or were used the same way. Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day cites a saying "Give that gentleman a coconut."