Cigar sayings

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Wed Jan 10 03:18:26 UTC 2007

   For an article on "close but no cigar" see my item (with thanks to the Peter Tamony collection on Americansims): "Close But No Cigar", in Studies in Slang, Part 2, (edited: Gerald Leonard Cohen), 1989, Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang,  pp. 100-102.

     And yes, the expression does derive from the carnival game called the "Highball" or "Hi-Striker" whereby a lever is hit with a sledge hammer in an attempt to ring the bell at the top.  The prize was a cigar, and if the puck-like object only came close, it was "close but no cigar."

Gerald Cohen

> ----------
> From:         American Dialect Society on behalf of James A. Landau
> Reply To:     American Dialect Society
> Sent:         Tuesday, January 9, 2007 8:36 PM
> Subject:           Re: Cigar sayings
> "Close but no cigar":
> Polly Adler, a famous New York City madam of the Prohibition era, wrote in her memoirs "A House Is Not A Home" that at one time she was hiding in New York and someone (probably a newspaper columnist) reported that she was currently in Havana or some equally exotic locale.  She says that she was tempted to send that someone the message "close but no cigar".  If I remember correctly, she identified the particular investigation she was hiding from, which is probably dateable if anyone tries hard enough.  Not a hard antedating but anecdotal evidence that "close but no cigar" was a well-known saying circa the 1930's.
> I am under the impression that the saying originates from a carnival game in which you swing a hammer to try to drive a weight high enough up a column to ring a bell, and in you succeed you win a cigar.  Does this make sense?

>     - Jim

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