To Beat the Band

Posted by ESC on May 19, 2000

In Reply to: To Beat the Band posted by Bruce Kahl on May 19, 2000

: I saw the phrase used on many sites to mean "Out does anything around"!
: "It was raining to beat the band."---In the early 1900's band concerts were popular and bands often played at ceremonial events. The band would be the most audible and conspicuous entity around. Any action or performance which out did the band was remarkable.
: I have no back up on this so my explanation might be called a big maybe!

"beat the band. Banagher, an Irish town on the Shannon, was in the mid-19th century a notorious 'pocket borough' where most residents were employed by the local lord and voted as he directed (were 'in his pocket'). It became a standing joke in Parliament at the time to quip, 'Well, that beats (or bangs) Banagher!' whenever someone mentioned a pocket borough where every resident was employed by the local lord. Either via this route, or because of an Irish ministrel named Bannagher who told amazing stories, the saying 'that beats Banagher,' for 'anything amazing or superior,' became an English favorite. It's reasonable to suggest, as Partridge does, that the later phrase 'that beats the band,' derived from it. The alliterative expressions do sound alike and 'bang' (from both the alternate version of the English phrase and Banagher) would suggest 'band' - that beats something louder, bigger, better than a great brass band. Attempts to connect 'that beats the band' with several real bands have all failed." From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

See also: the meaning and origin of the phrase 'to beat the band'.