Jobs for the boys


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Jobs for the boys'?

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Favouritism where jobs or other benefits are given to friends and acquaintances.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Jobs for the boys'?

‘The boys’ in this phrase means any group of men who share a common interest or background. It has been suggested that the phrase derives from the class system in England, which used to – and to an extent still does – maintain an ‘old boys network’. This confines power and patronage to a closed upper class group, that is, the ‘old boys’ of English public schools. However, there’s no record of ‘jobs for the boys’ being used in a UK context until well into the 20th century. It had previously been used widely in the USA; for example, this item from the New York newspaper The Syracuse Herald, October 1913:

“Party government isn’t organized for efficiency, nor to serve the people. It is organized to provide jobs for the boys.”

‘Jobs For The Boys’ had a different meaning when it was used as a slogan following both WWI and WWII. This was an expression of public gratitude for the demobbed soldiers who were returning home. A 1918 advert for the American United Illuminating Co. promised to:

“Dispel pessimism – create trade, confidence and brightness in the period of reconstruction. We will aid in creating new jobs for the boys in the Service when they return without crowding out those who have taken their place.”

The company wasn’t shy of exploiting a marketing opportunity and added to the above that it was the readers’ “New Patriotic Duty to Use Electric Signs”.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of jobs for the boys in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.