Saturday, June 18, 2016

The passing show

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,
And Crowds stood wond’ring at the passing Show.
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.

You can subscribe to the OED ’s Word of the Day here. And you should. As an OED representative reminds us, the Word of the Day is special.

A related post
SparkNotes and Homer

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