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The opera ain't over...

Posted by ESC on May 03, 2000

In Reply to: I need help with a phrase. posted by Lucia on May 02, 2000

: Can anyone tell me the origin and meaning of this phrase? "It's not over till the fat lady sings."

From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996): "The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings. The outcome of any contest isn't known until the final results are in. Thus, don't make premature judgments or give up too soon. Often associated with Wagnerian opera, specifically Brunhilde's 'Fire Song,' in 'Die Walkure,' and the fact that Wagner may seem interminable to nonaficionados. Thus one's impatience would be relieved when 'the fat lady sings.' Originated in the United States in the 1970s. Bartlett's 'Familiar Quotations' attributes the coinage to San Antonio TV sports commentator Dan Cook. Ralph Graves claims in the August 1991 issue of 'Smithsonian' that it has its roots in Southern proverbial lore: 'Church ain't out till the fat lady sings. There are still other attributions, but nobody really knows who coined this popular saying."

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