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Poster child

Posted by Bob on April 18, 2002

In Reply to: Poster child posted by masakimm on April 18, 2002

: : : What's the origin of the phrase "so is a poster child for sth"?

: : A poster child was originally a child with some illness or disability or other condition, such as being orphaned in a poor country, whose photo appeared on a poster soliciting donations to a charity that helped children with the condition. Later the term was taken up for humorous uses, like "That guy I went out with last night? He could be the poster boy for a remedial social-skills clinic." I don't know the other part, sth. sth or STH must stand for something that it's better not to have.

: poster boy (or girl or child) n phr by 1980s Someone given prominence in a certain cause: "The Bible-thumpers portray Col. North as the poster boy for the religious right"--Nation/ "Mary Matalin, for all her new visibility as a GOP poster girl, as actually a moderate"--Vanity/ "Marky Mark became the poster child of the baby teens, smiling with sweet innocence in his Calvin Klein underwear from billboards around the country"--New York Times [fr the appealing children appearing on posters in the 1930s and following, soliciting money for various desease-fighting organizations]
: From Dictionary of American Slang by Robert L. Chapman.

There's another interesting variation from the days of Michael Jordan's utter domination of professional basketball (we Chicagoans are still in painful withdrawl.) Michael, needless to say, sold a lot of action posters in his time. Among the most popular were ferocious slam dunks over assorted opponents who looked chagrined, goofy, bewildered, humiliated, etc. As time went on, Michael would steal the ball and begin a fast break, and an opponent would run along to challenge, and suddenly slow up or veer off. The announcers would notice and say "he didn't want to be Michael's 'poster.'" Poster became a synonym for temporarily humiliated in competition.

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