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Tin pot god

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 24, 2011 at 07:29

In Reply to: Tin pot god posted by David FG on July 17, 2011 at 20:11:

: : I was watching the Granada Television series of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Watson used a phrase I would like to know more about. He referred to a person as a "tin-pot/tin pot(?) god." I think I understand the meaning as to someone who thinks they are bigger than they really are, but why put a god in a tin pot?

: I suspect that it refers to a statue or image of a God being made of cheap material (the sort of thin tim used to make substandard pots). Thus, a tin pot god is one that is lacking in any real substance.


"Tin-pot" has been used since the 1830s to mean "Resembling or suggesting a tin pot in quality or sound"; hence contemptuously, "without solid worth, of inferior quality, shabby, poor, cheap". The earliest quotation cited in the OED, from 1838, is: "Mr. Taylor is a patriot in his little tin pot way". Other citations from the 19th and 20th centuries refer to tinpot bells, tinpot comic operas, tinpot politicians, etc. (VSD)