Mab of the Antipodes (mab_browne) wrote in fandom_grammar,
Mab of the Antipodes
mab_browne
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Say What! - He who pays the piper.../It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.

Today’s Say What looks at two sayings with a musical bent, with a little help from characters from The Sentinel.


Our first saying is he who pays the piper calls the tune, which is apparently one of those sayings where sadly the internet has taken little interest in its origins or derivation. However, according to a Google preview of Martin H Manser’s Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, one of the earliest recorded uses of this saying can be found in a 1779 diary entry by Grace Growden Galloway, a loyalist to the British cause during the American War of Independence.

The internet is definitely interested in regularly using this saying, which is a variation of that old favourite, the golden rule – that is, he who has the gold makes the rules. If you’re paying the piper, you get to say what tune is provided for your entertainment. "The customer is king" is another example of this idea.

Jim let the snitch have another glimpse of the money. “He who pays the piper calls the tune,” Jim said. “And you haven’t ‘played’ nearly long enough to earn this.”

To add a little confusion, however there is another piping related saying which underscores obligations from a different angle - time to pay the piper. This saying makes the point that there’s no escaping debts, whether literal or metaphorical, and may (or may not, there is vigorous debate) be related to the legend of the Pied Piper.

For our second saying, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, there’s rather more interest in just exactly where this saying comes from. It came into common usage in the nineteen-seventies and was probably first used in a sports context by journalist Ralph Carpenter in 1976, when he noted that the outcome of a football game might not be what was originally expected. He used the variation “the opera ain’t over 'til the fat lady sings". The cliché of the big-voiced prima donna with a big body to match is well known, but apparently this saying is more likely to have first come out of the US South and to reference church singing rather than opera.

Blair stared despondently at the electronic scoreboard. “It’s not looking that good for the Jags.”

Jim was more hopeful. “They’ve come back from worse. Just remember, it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

If you’re suggesting that it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings, you’re telling someone not to be so sure that an event is certain. There’s always room for the unexpected, which is certainly true when it comes to researching the origin and meaning of well-known sayings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_ain%27t_over_till_the_fat_lady_sings
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/it-aint-over-until-the-fat-lady-sings.html
http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ita1.htm
http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/02/10/sing-over/
Tags: !say what, author:mab_browne
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