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The meaning and origin of the expression: Razzle-dazzle


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Razzle-dazzle'?

Razzle-dazzle is glamorous excitement; a spectacular or ostentatious display.

Originally the term meant 'to distract or confuse by using energetic or elaborate action which may dazzle onlookers'. The imagery there seems to be that, when 'given' the razzle-dazzle, onlookers would be dazzled and distracted.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Razzle-dazzle'?

The original 'distract or confuse' meaning seems to have gone somewhat out of use. I has come across it before researching the phrase to write this piece.

The expression was then always in the form of 'give someone the razzle-dazzle', that is, confuse them. The earliest use that I can find of that sense of 'razzle-dazzle' is the US newspaper The Saint Paul Globe, April 1885:

Sir: As you seem to be in earnest in your efforts to give someone the dazzle-dazzle...

The expression very quickly came to be used with a more positive intent, that is, where 'razzle-dazzle' was considered to be indicate enjoyment rather than deception. That's found in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Daily Republican, June 1887:

A meeting at City Hall resolved to celebrate the Fourth [of July] by a general old-time razzle-dazzle.


What's the meaning and origin of the phrase 'Razzle-dazzle'?I can't think of a better picture to portray razzle-dazzle than the flamboyant, energetic ball of excitement that was Little Richard.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

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.

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