Pros from Dover

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jul 23 20:39:11 UTC 2002

Here's the origin of the expression, I believe:

Richard Hooker, "M*A*S*H", 1968: Ch. 8: pp. 71-2:

<<In college Hawkeye's obligation to various scholarships involved
attention to other games, but during medical school, his internship and his
residency he had played golf as often as possible. Joining a club had been
out of the question, and even payment of green fees was economically
unsound. Therefore he developed a technique which frequently allowed him
the privilege of playing some public and a number of unostentatious private
courses. He would walk confidently into a pro shop, smile, comment upon the
nice condition of the course, explain that he was just passing through and
that he was Joe, Dave or Jack Somebody, the pro from Dover. This resulted,
about eight times out of ten, in an invitation to play for free. If forced
into conversation, he became the pro from Dover, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, New Jersey, England, Ohio, Delaware, Tennessee, or
Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, whichever seemed safest.>>

So that's why "Dover": it's a place-name which is very ambiguous.

A little later in the book, Hawkeye and Trapper John are rousted from their
golf in Korea and sent to do thoracic surgery in Japan; they arrive
unshaven, dressed (apparently) in outlandish borrowed Korean clothing, and
toting golf clubs; they make a number of silly wisecracks, and request the
patient's X-ray films (p. 77):

<<"All right," Trapper said. "Somebody trot out the latest pictures of this
kid with the shell fragment in his chest."
        No one moved.
        "Snap it up!" yelled Hawkeye. "We're the pros from Dover, and the last
pictures we saw must be forty-eight hours old by now.">>

A little later (p. 78), confronted by a fierce nurse:

<<"Don't get mad, ma'am," Hawkeye said. "All we want is our starting time."
        "Get out!" she screamed.
        "Look, mother," Trapper said. "I'm the pro from Dover. Me and my
greenskeeper want to crack that kid's chest and get out to the course. ....">>

So what the expression SHOULD mean is "frivolous grotesque-looking visitors
with doubtful credentials", but I suppose this concept is implicit whenever
outside experts are called in. Apparently "pros from Dover" is used
nowadays to mean simply "outside experts" or sometimes even simply "experts".

-- Doug Wilson

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