"None too shabby" (1952); MTA, SoDeWha, WhaTHDIW
bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sat Dec 18 08:05:40 UTC 2004
On Sat, 18 Dec 2004 01:18:49 -0500, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
>NONE TOO SHABBY
>Ben Zimmer, who's taking away the antedating business from me and Fred, had
>posted this (even adding the cool word "litotic"):
>>OED3 has 1975 for the litotic phrase "not (too) shabby".
>>Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune, Apr 22, 1969, p. 6
>>The Black Panthers' 880-yard relay quartet of Bruce Huss, >Jim Greene, Bob
>>Oliver and Robinson grabbed another first in the not-too->shabby time of
>>(Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin) Daily Tribune, Nov 12, 1969, >p. 7
>>But Coatta said Wisconsin's passing game was not too shabby.
>That was not too shabby. But it was not "none too shabby." Not that I know
>many shabby nuns.
>(PROQUEST HISTORICAL NEWSPAPERS)
>WORKSHOP GEAR SURE TO PLEASE HOBBYIST HUBBY; Wives Finding Gift Tools Key
>to His Heart
>HAROLD SMITH. Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963). Chicago, Ill.: Jan 13,
>1952. p. SW_A3 (1 page):
>To one of our ironmonger friends we reported the news that a woman of our
>acquaintance had received from her husband as a birthday gift a complete
>amateur carpenter's tool kit, which she appeared to treasure over the none
>too shabby fur coat she got for Christmas.
Thanks for the compliment, Barry, and thanks for the cite. The version of
Proquest I can currently access lacks the Tribune and the Washington Post,
unfortunately, so I'm missing out on a lot of good material.
I wonder if the Trib cite is something of a transitional form-- sure it's
litotic, but is it really idiomatic as on the 1969 sports pages? A fur
coat is literally "not (too) shabby" (as OED2 puts it, "shabby" usually
refers to "clothes, furniture, houses, etc."). But by 1969, "not (too)
shabby" was being extended by sportswriters to athletic performance.
(Even the OED3 cite of 1975 has an athletic context, referring to golf
scores.) The sporting world seems to be where the idiomatic sense
emerged... perhaps from coaches conveying understated praise to their
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