ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 21 01:43:56 UTC 2014

JL wrote:
> 'An unsurmountable obstacle; dealbreaker.'
> 2011: This problem is not going to be a showstopper for my project.
> (Chosen at random from many online.)

I have also heard "showstopper" used in the manner mentioned by JL for
several years. Below is a relevant instance in 1982 in a set of
questions submitted for a Congressional Committee Hearing. The
questions were submitted by Chairman Bouquard of the Committee on
Science and Technology. The term "show-stopper" was present in
question 11 in the desired (or undesired) sense. Chairman Bouquard
apparently referred to Marilyn Lloyd Bouquard.

Volume Title: Fiscal year 1983 Department of Energy budget review
[microform] : hearing before the Committee on Science and Technology,
U.S. House of Representatives, Ninety-seventh Congress, second

Questions and Answers Submitted for the Record
Date: June 7, 1982
Start Page 501, Quote Page 502
Database: HathiTrust

[Begin excerpt]


11. Dr. Leiss, the PEB made four recommendations regarding a PSP R&D
program. Should these activities be carried on in parallel, and if so,
at what level of effort? Is one of these technical issues a
"show-stopper" in the sense that the process would not be viable if
the issue were not resolved?
[End excerpt]

Here is an example of "show stopper" in the desired sense in 2005 via
the Wayback Machine in March 31, 2005. A similar passage was later
published in the 2006 book "The World Record Paper Airplane Book"

[Begin excerpt]
Outside it was raining, and with no events planned and the ventilation
turned off, the humidity from outdoors had filtered indoors as well.
Humidity is the mortal enemy of paper airplanes, making their wings
limp, and turning record setting planes into worthless lumps of paper.
The humidity was not a complete show stopper, but I could tell it was
affecting my planes.  After an hour of intensive testing, only two
planes had flown beyond the existing record, and both by less than a
[End excerpt]

Here is a complaint/observation about the semantic shift in a
curmudgeon-style language book in 2013.

2013, Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without
Being a Jerk by Bill Walsh Showstopper, Quote Page 256, 1st St
Martin's Griffin Edition: St. Martin's Press, New York. (Google Books

[Begin excerpt]

A showstopper is something impressive, spectacular, awesome, as in a
musical number in a play that brings audience members to their feet in
applause, thereby stopping the show for a bit. In yet another sign
that the theater may be dead, people are using the term to mean
something like dealbreaker—an event that breaks off negotiations or
otherwise pre-empts matters.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society -

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