phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Man/woman on the Clapham omnibus (orig. posted May 2002)

Posted by (Various posters) on August 10, 2002

Posted by Bob on May 31, 2002

In Reply to: the man (woman) on the Clapham omnibus posted by masakim on May 30, 2002

: : : Hello,
: : : Does this phrase mean "ordinary British people"? Any idea of Clapham omnibus? Thank you.

: : Yes, it does, particularly the uneducated masses, as in: "What does the man on the Clapham omnibus know about quantum theory?"

: : I've never heard the female version, though.

: : Clapham is considered, I suppose, an average suburb of London, the omnibus (bus) an unexciting mode of transport.

: : psi

: Man on the Clapham omnibus, The. In legal parlance, 'the reasonable person'. Possibly the phrase was first used by Sir Charlrd Bowen, QC (later Lord Bowen), who was junior council against the claimant in the Tichborne case (1871-4).
: From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

: the man on the Clapham omnibus (BrE) a phrase like _the man in the street_, which means the average ordinary English person (of either seX).... The choice of the bus from Clapham, an area of south-west London, has no special meaning; it is just a typical bus from a fairly ordinary place....
: From _Oxford Guide to British and American Culture_

Is "omnibus" still in common usage in the UK? In the US, it was shortened to "bus" a long time ago. We also tend to use the awkward and vague "mass transit" for any and all underground and elevated trains, because each city tends to nickname its own. The subway in New York is the El in Chicago is the T in Boston, etc.

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