[Ads-l] antedating "close but no cigar"

Peter Morris peter_morris_1 at BLUEYONDER.CO.UK
Tue Aug 25 08:40:47 UTC 2015

Fred Shapiro wrote:
"Close, but no cigar" is widely used to signal a near miss. The earliest instance of its use anyone has found is in the 1935 film Annie Oakley, which has the line "Close, Colonel, but no cigar!" Why a cigar? The reference appears to  be to a carnival game of strength (the "Highball" or "Hi-Striker") in which the contestant hits a lever with a sledgehammer to try to drive a weight high enough up a column to ring a bell at the top. The standard reward for ringing the bell is a cigar.


I have found an earlier cite in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, July 2 1929 describing the first reunion of the class of  '28.


"The long distance trophy, an appropriately inscribed silver cigarette case, was awarded to Em Gooch who had made the trip from Lincoln, Neb. for the occasion. Several other members came close, but no cigar, and we trust that all those in New York and Philadelphia who failed to show up, without reason, will read these lines with a quiver."

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

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