phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"No Great Shakes"

Posted by ESC on February 02, 2003

In Reply to: "No Great Shakes" posted by S. on February 02, 2003

: Hello, I was just hoping some one might know the origin and meaning of the phrase "no great shakes". Thanks in advance for any information.

NO GREAT SHAKES - "That monument of noncomputerized scholarship, the great 'Oxford English Dictionary,' suggests that this expression alludes to the shaking of dice. Someone who is 'no great shakes' is nothing extraordinary, like a gambler who shakes the dice and throws a low point - no sevens or elevens. Considering its first recorded use, the expression must have been known as early as the 17th century. Lord Broughton, recalling an 1816 art show in his 'Recollections of a Long Life' , wrote: 'W. said that a piece of sculpture there was 'nullae magnae quassationes,' and the others laughed heartily.' The others, proficient linguists, got the joke immediately when they translated the Latin for 'no great shakes.' Another suggestion is that the expression derives from the provincial word 'shake,' 'to brag' - according to this highly improbable theory someone who is 'no great shakes' would be nothing to brag about." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997)