local boy made good

Jim WALKER Jim.Walker at UNIV-LYON2.FR
Wed Oct 13 12:38:00 UTC 2010

Dear All,

I have long lurked here, marvelling at people's ability to pre-date attestations and generally seek out the long-lost origins of phrases. Now, hoping that I have buttered you up sufficiently, I'd like to pick your collective brains.

I am, for various reasons, looking at the string "The boy done good", which is something of a cliché associated with football (soccer) in the UK, meant obviously as a laudatory comment on the performance of a player. This may well go back (though this is very speculative) to former footballer Mick Channon who, when commentating on British TV, infamously declared "The boy Lineker done good", referring to a particular player. The expression has entered common parlance, it would seem, in the form "The boy done good"

In looking for this, I keep turning up the string "local boy done good", and while the sense is clear, I can't quite parse the structure here. Is it a local boy (who has) done good? How far back does the expression go - is it traceable? The fact that I see it in many American documents (not least the Department of Homeland Security appropriations http://books.google.fr/books?id=9LXLbQm2fNMC&q=%22local+boy+done+good%22&dq=%22local+boy+done+good%22&hl=fr&ei=C3CzTIyGJMfpOcy7mJAI&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBDg8) means that I cannot suspect that the football-related "boy done good" is at play at all here. How similar is it to "local boy makes good"?

Thanks for reading!

Jim Walker

Senior Lecturer

University Lyon 2, France

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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