The Oxford English Dictionary ’s Word of the Day is passing show : “the spectacle of contemporary life; (also) an entertainment taking as its subject matter current events and interests.” I’m surprised to see that the first citation comes not (as I would have guessed) from the world of journalism but from Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad (1715). The lines are about Paris’s journey to Sparta:
When Greece beheld thy painted Canvas flow,The phrase “the passing show” later became a title for several musical revues and for a newspaper column (1897–1900) by the young Willa Cather.
And Crowds stood wond’ring at the passing Show.
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